Long-awaited upgrades to Bancroft Park, in the heart of Old Colorado City, began Tuesday as crews work to install restrooms, a playground and more.

In all, the project is expected to cost about $550,000, said David Deitemeyer, Colorado Springs’ senior landscape architect. That figure includes a $300,000 supplemental appropriation approved by the City Council last July. The balance comes from local sales tax revenue and contributions from the Old Colorado City Foundation, he said.

Many have said Bancroft Park is long overdue for upgrades and that need was exacerbated in 2017 when the historic bandshell was damaged by a 2017 fire reportedly lit by vagrants trying to keep warm.

“I kind of wish it would have happened six or nine or 12 months ago, but I think this is just incredible for Old Colorado City,” said at-large City Councilman Tom Strand, who lives just blocks from the park. “It’s a critical area to pay attention to.”

Damage to the bandshell has been repaired, Deitemeyer said. In addition, the building was upgraded with a new security door, better lighting and more access to the stage for those with different needs.

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But now the rest of the park will be upgraded to match that work, Deitemeyer said. A picnic pavilion will be removed after feedback from public meetings showed that it served as a homeless shelter.

“It tended to attract some of the lesser-desirable folks,” Strand said.

Similar problems have been reported in the restrooms inside the bandshell, Strand said. But crews will remove those restrooms and replace them with prefabricated ones in the park’s southernmost corner, off South 24th Street and Colorado Avenue.

“They’ll be more open, can’t use it for any bad things,” he said.

Those new restrooms will also be able to clean themselves, Strand said.

After so many uses, the facilities will lock themselves for about eight minutes for the cleaning process. That feature is expected to save on maintenance costs and keep the restrooms in good condition.

Hopefully, that new technology can serve as a prototype for future park improvements elsewhere in town, Strand said.

The rest of the work will include the addition of a small playground, other park amenities like bike racks and benches and better lighting throughout the area, Strand said.

Although the construction is occurring during a busy stretch of the tourism season in Old Colorado City, Deitemeyer said none of the neighborhood’s regularly scheduled events will be disturbed.

The local farmers market will continue as usual, Strand said, giving thanks because he attends the market weekly.

“We won’t have any impacts to the public sidewalks, for folks who are visiting the shops in Old Colorado City and we won’t have any parking impacts as well,” Deitemeyer said.

The park upgrades are expected to be finished around the end of October, Deitemeyer said.

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