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Restroom access at Denver parks limited due to vandalism

Parks and Recreation hopes to beef up staffing to address issue
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Posted at 9:33 PM, Oct 16, 2022

DENVER — Regular visitors to Denver Parks know sometimes restrooms aren't accessible.

Crime is a major reason why.

According to Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of Denver Parks and Recreation, the vandalism inside park restrooms goes beyond graffiti and trash.

“A lot of times people go in and vandalize them, they rip the sinks off the wall,” said Gilmore.

Gilmore says someone even set fires inside the restrooms at Washington Park twice this year.

“We're getting toilets blown up. It's just been really challenging for us to continue to keep some of these open,” said Gilmore.

Incidents like that are the reason why he says his department must limit access to some restrooms.

“Those are the types of situations when people say ‘Well, make sure the restrooms need to be open.’ Well, sometimes the restrooms are closed because somebody has gone in and made it so we can't keep it open,” said Gilmore.

Gilmore says because of vandalism, 15 year-round restrooms are now permit only, meaning parks staff will open them only for special events.

Gilmore says one thing that seems to be helping is ensuring the restrooms are staffed.

He says restrooms at the McNichols Building at Civic Center Park, along with those at Skyline Park and Lawson Park in downtown are all being staffed ten hours a day.

“We have somebody that's basically in the office sitting right there to actually manage and monitor that restroom to make sure that bad behavior is not going on in those restrooms,” said Gilmore.

He says the department wants to move toward that model, having a staff member or perhaps a park ranger, monitoring restrooms where vandalism has been a problem.

The department has requested $364,000 in this year’s budget to hire at least four permanent park rangers to increase security.

“We're just trying to make sure that the parks that we enjoy in Denver, Colorado, are as safe as possible.”

Gilmore says the parks system has 60 plumbed restrooms (with running water). Ten of those are open year-round.

He says 34 restrooms are seasonal and closed during winter.

In addition, Gilmore says the city spends about $500,000 a year on portable bathrooms at parks.