Officials Plan to Clean Up Whitman Park
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- Some may look at Whitman Park as a lost cause, but officials are hoping it’s more of a diamond in the rough.
The Grand Junction park is an area the Downtown Development Authority has wanted to fix for many years. It’s made a name for itself by housing homeless people throughout the day, and area businesses are saying it's hindering their ability to expand.
“One of the big challenges with Whitman Park is that it’s a passive park and it’s used in a passive manner,” said Harry Weiss, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority. “People just kind of hang out there and the majority of what goes on there is pretty benign but people perceive it as being dangerous. They see it as crime ridden and as undesirable.”
Loitering, vagrancy and panhandling have taken over most of the field, giving this part of downtown Grand Junction a bad name.
“The condition of the park is sort of hindering the economic, tourist and social development of this particular neighborhood,” said Peter Booth, executive director of the Museum of Western Colorado.
Located right across the street, officials say the Museum of Western Colorado has been subject to vandalism due in part because of the park's populace.
Booth would like to expand their operations by using outdoor exhibits. However, he says they can't grow if the conditions languish.
“There needs to be a positive policy towards downtown development in this area that will benefit not only the museum but all the other neighbors we have in the area,” said Booth.
Downtown officials say they want to start hosting more events in this park, possibly even install a stage for concerts or a skateboard park.
They believe the solution is all about changing the energy and activity in the park.
“Having a really high quality space that is a place where you can have civic assembly, where you can have large groups join together, that’s what Whitman Park holds as the potential for the future,” said Weiss. “It can be a really great town square.”
Officials say the opportunities for this park are endless, but it must start with an engaged community to want to change the atmosphere.
Additionally, officials plan to daft a new panhandling ordinance that would give more tools and legal obligations to police when they're managing these kinds of situations.