Monday night, the Grand Junction City Council took the first step in revitalizing Whitman Park. It approved a measure that would allow a contractor to design new plans for the park, which officials call a gateway to the downtown area.
Grand Valley residents say they see Whitman Park every time they come downtown, and each time they're sure to keep driving.
"At this point it's not a place where I want my kids to play," said Pam McLaughlin, a Grand Junction resident. "Just for safety issues."
She and others say there's a good reason for that attitude.
"I think there's a lot of homeless," said McLaughlin.
"I think people avoid it, quite frankly," said Grand Junction Deputy Police Chief Troy Smith. "Families and other communities members don't use the park as a result of the current traffic that is in the park."
But police say it goes beyond the homeless issue. Officers say the park is polluted with trash, that picnic tables and bathrooms are constantly being vandalized, and they've had to make several arrests there for drug and alcohol related crimes.
"Those are all indicators that we look at as incentives for this project," said Deputy Chief Smith.
With plans for a new public safety center in the works, the city is hoping to incorporate the park into the center's design. Officials say it will be like an extension of the news building, which they hope will make it a focal point in the downtown area.
"It's an opportunity for us to return the park as a vibrant resource to the community," said Deputy Chief Smith.
Although plans have yet to be drawn, the city says they would likely include new amenities, recreational equipment, and some landscaping.
Even though the project won't be completed for some time, residents say it's already winning them over.
"I think it would be a positive thing for downtown Grand Junction," said McLaughlin. "I really do."
City and police officials say if this project does go through, it could also serve as a great way to help jump start other revitalization projects in the southern downtown area.
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