Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Toward developing a commercial use policy for Denver Parks and Recreation

Dody Erickson
Director of Special Projects
Denver Parks and Recreation
Department 601
201 West Colfax
Denver, Colorado 80202

Dear Dody:

Thank you for your invitation to be a member of the stakeholder group to develop a commercial use policy for Denver Parks and Recreation. Since I had previously volunteered, I look forward to working with you as a neighborhood representative for this group.
In response to your inquiry about key points to consider, I should make it clear that my first position is against commercial activity in public parks, consistent with the INC Platform for Denver's Urban Parks. I see no rationalization for the notion that commercial enterprises have a prerogative to use public property for profit-making activities. (City Charter 2.4.5 does not allow leasing of park property.)
If commercial use is to be allowed, I advocate the highest level of revenue and the lowest use possible. Under Parks and Recreation’s cost recovery model, these commercial enterprises should pay the full cost of what the property is worth because the activity is only predicated on profit-making use by a few individuals.
The commercial use policy should prohibit any activities involving animals, such as dog training or grooming. These activities are inappropriate for general park use, and contrary to existing regulations requiring animals to be on leash. If these commercial enterprises are to be allowed, they must specifically be confined to areas designated as “dog parks.”
Signage, even temporary, is unacceptable. There should be no “naming rights” involved. Again, if the ultimate decision does allow signage, there should be an additional charge for such privilege.
In other words, the public parks are not commercial property for sale to the highest bidder. Commercial enterprises should understand that open space does not confer any usage advantages that would be gained over an ordinary “brick and mortar” business establishment.
Subject to stakeholder consensus and final decision, the proposed model for Santa Monica ( should serve as a pattern for Denver. There should be an open and serious examination of what policies are in place in other comparable cities, e.g. Seattle, Portland, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Phoenix. Any commercial user must be registered with the Colorado Secretary of State. Any user must possess and display the applicable state and city business license(s). Commercial users must pay all applicable taxes. Users must post bond and be responsible for full restoration of any damage to park property. Permits must be renewed frequently, at least once every three months.
I do have questions about enforcement. How is Parks and Recreation going to determine legitimate licensed users from transient activities, and how is Parks going to collect the applicable fees?
Denver Parks and Recreation must set rules limiting the number of commercial use permits, define acceptable use, size of activity, and number of permits. Only certain areas and specified parks can be used. For example, Washington and Cheesman Parks are already overwhelmed by activity and would not be appropriate sites. The time of commercial activity must be limited to specified hours, preferably at lower park usage times.
Any activity which the community considers inappropriate and/or unacceptable must cease immediately with no questions and no recourse by the operator. Parks should provide a specific phone number for complaints.
Operators must adhere to noise level regulations, e.g. no amplified sound audible beyond 25 feet.
The policy must specifically reiterate prohibitions against alcoholic beverages, firearms, and other lethal weapons.
I appreciate your consideration, recognizing that I have given you more than the three key points you requested. Please let me know if you’d like any more information.


Dave Felice


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