Build it and they will come, but when they do, the city pulls the plug

So what did they think would happen?

Build it and they will come, the saying goes. So the city built the immensely popular but now fenced-off splash pad near Fifth and Main.

And they came. Moms and their toddlers, grandparents and grandkids — until last week, when disappointed would-be splashers and their parents were greeted by fencing and signs saying “No Mas.”

Did city leaders expect it wouldn’t be a hit in a community where temperatures are known to hit the century mark in the summer? Are downtown merchants really that averse to the joyful squeals of happy children?

Officially the reason is sanitation, that the splash pad is apparently being “loved to death” by kiddos without swim diapers, an errant dog now and then and allegedly, though I’ve yet to see or talk with anyone who’s actually witnessed it, some “vagrants.”

Sounds like a design problem that could be rectified with filtration and treatment of the sort that is already well-known to the Grand Junction Parks Department, purveyors of presumably sanitary splashing at the pad adjacent to the Lincoln Park pool. Or, if need be, with some friendly advice from other municipalities like Aspen, where splashing has been going on in the downtown area for quite some time absent E-coli epidemics, the overwhelming presence of four-legged splashers or, God forbid, occasional bathing by those formerly known as “dirty hippies.”

But this is a Parks Department so concerned about sanitation that, after announcing free use of the Lincoln Park Pool’s splash pad, directs those splashers to the park’s more distant public restrooms rather than close-by facilities a few steps away at the pool.

Seems to me there’s some solution short of throwing the babies out of the splash water.

Unless the real reason is complaining by a few grumpy merchants — perhaps the same ones who feel entitled to free parking meters at Christmastime but gripe about the festivals and parades that also lure people to our enviable Main Street.

I’m thinking more than a few communities might be overjoyed to have some part of their downtown that’s “loved to death.” A city staff that can figure out how to fuel trash trucks with waste gas from a sewer plant, I’m guessing, just might be able to engineer a water treatment system for a small-scale splash pad; maybe even some shade and seating improvements, in fairly short order.

If city leaders and downtown merchants really wanted to do something besides pull the plug, that is.

■ ■ ■

Also of note last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper was still saying he’s hopeful action in a special legislative session might preclude ballot issues asserting local control over some drilling activities within municipal boundaries. Meanwhile, a New York decision upheld just that sort of control.

More than 170 New York municipalities have passed bans or moratoria to protect residents from the impacts of fracking. That state’s highest court, the New York Court of Appeals, ruled June 30 that two towns challenged on that can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas operations, within municipal borders.

“Heavy industry has never been allowed in our small farming town and three years ago, we decided that fracking was no exception,” said Dryden Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner. “I hope our victory serves as an inspiration to people in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, North Carolina, California and elsewhere who are also trying to do what’s right for their own communities.”

Hickenlooper is in an unenviable spot.

Some industry leaders are supportive of the latest compromise proposal. Other oil and gas companies are not, presumably thinking their war chest and business community support will prevail over the bankrolls of 2nd District Congressman Jared Polis and local control advocates.

Legislative action won’t come without buy-in from the GOP-controlled Colorado House of Representatives. But few Republican leaders see any advantage in compromise, gambling the high stakes battle over oil and gas drilling will drive industry and GOP-friendly voters to the polls in what is widely seen as a toss-up election for governor, U.S. Senator and control of the Colorado Legislature.

Jim Spehar thinks those on both sides of the ballot issue controversy could use a good cooling off, perhaps at a re-opened downtown splash pad. Your thoughts are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


COMMENTS

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Jim, last I checked, the GOP didn’t control the Colorado House.

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