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Chantal Unfug Headshot

To Pay or Not to Pay

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Denver's exceptional park system has existed for more than 100 years. In that time, Denver has grown from a rural, small western town to a world-class, vibrant city. But what does that mean for the park system? Just as it is hard to imagine in 1908 Denver residents enjoying horse racing in City Park, or in 1940 families not wanting playgrounds in parks, or in 1970 ice skating on our ponds; we cannot see into the future to know what uses our park guests will want to pursue.

The City's job is to ensure the system will continue to thrive for the next 100 years and they will do that by creating policies that protect Denver's assets for the long-term, but also address the needs and desires of a changing urban community.

Permitting admissions-based events (those which charge for a ticket to attend an event) is one way to address these needs and requests while maintaining and protecting the City's open space assets.

Although over the years, Denver has received requests ranging from small nonprofits wanting to do fundraisers to larger concerts in the parks, this concept was brought into prominence in 2008 when AEG inquired about hosting the Mile High Music Festival at City Park. While that event did not happen, another exciting opportunity has been proposed to make a debut with the Biennial of the Americas in the summer of 2010.

Boston based US Open Air is looking to launch a 30-day film festival in Denver this July 2010. The event coincides with the Biennial of Americas, another Denver first-time event. The movie festival is proposed to be in Civic Center Park in 2010 and in City Park in 2011 and 2012.

While US Open Air is possibly right around the corner, the City is creating a longer term vision by pulling together a task force to study the issues and opportunities with unique park events. After two years of careful study and discussion with various groups vested in the process, the Task Force recommended the City create a policy to clarify how, when and where these events will happen.

The draft policy responsibly and reasonably designates specific parks where a limited number of events could take place, and limits the allowable acreage to ensure the City prioritizes free events and minimizes the impact of such events on the surrounding community.

Many of these events would also be responsible for paying Denver's required seat tax, and the policy requires additional funds be directed to DPR for improvements specific to the park where the event takes place. As the current economic climate lingers, this policy would provide another way for DPR to continue maintaining our renowned park system.

Moving forward, it seems that the public should take time to review opportunities for additional park uses that activate the space and create community while also building much needed revenue.

We are in a new era of community planning and, with input from all stakeholders, admission-based events could be an asset to the City both culturally and financially.