Five new gates are being installed in Garden of the Gods as city officials try to curb reckless driving, drug and alcohol use, vandalism and other criminal activity during the night.
“After-hours mischief comes with the territory of parks, but it’s reached a tipping point,” said Kurt Schroeder, park maintenance and operations manager for Colorado Springs. “When we see after-hours use, it’s typically not for all the right reasons and ones that are potentially destructive to the resources in the park and the people doing it.”
The city’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services began erecting the five gates Wednesday and expect the closures to begin in late August or early September.
Over the past year, the park reported 60 after-hours car accidents, including ones where people flipped off the road into vegetation. Park employees also have seen an uptick in graffiti on the rocks and infrastructure — including a spatter of bullet holes at the High Point pavilion — as well as the usual littering of beer bottles, cigarettes and other trash.
Fireworks are also a problem, Schroeder said. In May, a late-night visitor launched a firework from the main parking lot on the park’s north side, setting fire to a 200- to 300-square-foot patch of scrub oak.
“If we hadn’t been able to extinguish that quickly, it easily could’ve gotten out of hand,” he said. “The consequences could’ve been severe.”
Palmer Park experienced similar debauchery before gates were installed there in 2015. Grand View Overlook was a notorious party spot that nearby residents frequently complained about, Schroeder said. The gates were critical in clamping down on noise and trash.
“We’ve cut down mischief there to basically nothing since putting up the gates,” he said.
Statistics on crime reported to police after-hours in Palmer Park and Garden of the Gods were not immediately available.
Garden of the Gods has cameras installed across the park, mostly to capture car break-ins during the day.
The gates also will help to manage traffic during special events such as running and bicycle races and when plows are trying to clear the roads after snowstorms.
“The straw that broke the camel’s back was after-hours activity, but the gates serve other purposes, too,” he said.
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