Sandwiched between the brotastic quasi-frat that is the Commons Park West development and the “so desperate to live near downtown we’ll sleep next to trains” set at Riverfront Park lies a city park I’ve come to love for almost a decade.
I’ve walked that dirt path to my former job waiting tables at McLoughlin’s more times than I can count. We organized a game of “capture the flag” there for my fiancée’s birthday a couple of years ago after an early fall snow that made it a mess of hilarious proportions. I’ve run my sheltie up and down Stoner Hill so many times that she loops in circles at the sight of it.
Unfortunately for some, the sanitized tourism brochure version of the Commons Park they’ve conjured in their heads doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s a public space where, rich or poor, people can congregate and occasionally, they smoke marijuana. Taking a page straight out of the “Reefer Madness” playbook, they claim these dope-smoking “transients” make them fear for their safety.
Who knows what someone hopped up on goofballs might do?
Spare me your righteous indignation, people of privilege.
The current problems with Commons Park — where neighbors and city officials say the homeless and others who gather there to smoke pot have made the park unsafe and trashed — stem from poor planning and the aimlessness of the space, not cannabis legalization.
Denver park complaints: The upper reaches of Denver’s Commons Park have been fenced off for months to prevent illegal activities, and city officials are open to ideas on how to revitalize the downtown park
Trails through the grassy areas have existed long before Jan. 1, 2014, when legal marijuana sales first started here, and they certainly weren’t caused by a horde of stoners plodding single-file to the closest dispensary. When nearby residents descend from their glass castle on the weekends to sip pinot grigio and play fetch with their off-leash golden retrievers, no one seems to mind.
Having to look down — both literally and figuratively — on the disenfranchised, on the other hand? They’d rather erect an inanimate eyesore of a fence. Fences don’t have feelings.
They also don’t solve much, other than keeping people out of the park’s less-visible areas where illicit activities were taking place.
As a 32-year-old adult with a constitutional right to purchase and possess marijuana, I have virtually no options to legally consume it after I’ve left my house. For those experiencing homelessness, that’s a real problem, not to mention those in transitional housing or shelters. While it’s easy to be dismissive of their right to smoke cannabis, there are substantial benefits for those trying to kick addictions to opiates or deal with traumatic stress that led to their current situation.
That’s not what our parks should be used for, but Commons Park was doomed long ago by whoever decided that the main features of the space should be areas where people can hide from view, including the fenced-off landmark hill and a problematic public art sculpture.
Legal weed or not, it was a disaster waiting to happen. Now, they have a scapegoat.