DENVER — The now-empty Civic Center Park will open its gates to the public once again on Wednesday after nearly two months of cleaning and renovations.
Though much of the public space will remain closed, the Western portion of the park will allow visitors starting Nov. 3.
The park was closed by the Denver Department of Health and Environment calling the space as a health hazard. The city cited piles of trash, food and human waste, an expanding rodent problem and hundreds of needles in its report for why the park was closed. Many of the structures in the park were badly damaged as well.
The Parks and Recreation Department used the closure to repair aging benches, to paint chipping lamp posts and to re-grout the bricks in many of the park's walkways.
The list of renovations is long. It includes 19 new trees planted, hundreds of LED light bulbs installed and thousands of bricks re-positioned. The city still must aerate and re-plant grass along the entire eastern walkway of the park, replace dozens rock slabs from vandalized pedestals and restore a century-old water fountain.
"I've been in this role 10 years, and it's never gone through this, this type of deep cleaning," said Scott Gilmore, the deputy executive director of Denver's Parks and Recreation Department. "All those modifications and all that work is to really encourage people to come back to this park."
The park, formerly a draw to the heart of downtown, fell into disrepair as drug use and vandalism took hold. Gilmore says his employees would regularly remove dozens of used needles from the park daily and response to overdoses regularly became a part of the job.
"I have rangers that have been in this park and in this downtown core that have administered Narcan 40 times in 2021," Gilmore said. "People need to understand that if you're going to sell drugs and you want to use drugs, you're not welcome in Civic Center Park."
The department will also focus on safety for visitors by revamping the park's security camera system and hiring eight new park rangers to patrol the area at all hours of the day. Currently, cameras only line the east side of the park. Soon infrared cameras will line the entire park.
"This is gonna be an area that is opening back up, and so we want people to come sit on the benches and and enjoy the park," Gilmore said. "It's a spectacular park, and we want people to come in and feel safe."
Civic Center Park will only partially open on Wednesday as many of the renovation projects will still take weeks, even months to complete. However, because the health order was lifted, events like the Christkindlmarket have the green light to go ahead.
"A lot of effort into putting this park back together and fixing and repairing things," Gilmore said. "We're blessed to have this, and we need to take care of it."