Cheesman pot rally plans scrapped

Neigh­bors op­posed 420 Fest, but Civic Cen­ter event still on.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jon Mur­ray Jon Mur­ray: 303-954-1405, jmur­ray@den­ver­post.com or @JonMur­ray

A city parks of­fi­cial on Thurs­day con­firmed that an or­ga­nizer has can­celed plans for a two-day Den­ver 420 Fest at Cheesman Park next month.

The new event had been planned for April 20-21, and it would have shared the April 20 date that’s dear to mar­i­juana en­thu­si­asts with the long-stand­ing Den­ver 420 Rally in Civic Cen­ter Park. That larger sin­gle-day event still is on track to ob­tain its per­mit for Civic Cen­ter, a parks of­fi­cial said. On Thurs­day, or­ga­niz­ers an­nounced rap­per 2 Chainz as the event’s head­liner.

But plans for a com­pet­ing mar­i­juana fes­ti­val at Cheesman by Colorado High­life LLC had been met with in­tense op­po­si­tion from park ad­vo­cates in cen­tral Den­ver.

The or­ga­nizer’s per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion es­ti­mated 4,900 at­ten­dees each day, with ven­dor booths, a DJ and per­for­mances by blue­grass and pop bands.

Friends and Neigh­bors for Cheesman Park, a park ad­vo­cacy group, this week sent out a blis­ter­ing mes­sage to its mem­bers and city of­fi­cials that called the idea of us­ing that site “dis­re­spect­ful to his­toric Cheesman Park and the neigh­bor­hood.”

The group ex­pressed con­cern about the po­ten­tial for ex­ces­sive con­cert stage noise, il­le­gal pub­lic con­sump­tion of mar­i­juana — de­spite the event web­site’s warn­ing that it won’t be al­lowed — and the sale of drug para­pher­na­lia in the park by event ven­dors.

“The event or­ga­nizer has ad­vised the city that he has can­celed the event,” Cyndi Kar­vaski, a spokes­woman for Den­ver Parks and Recre­ation, said Thurs­day after­noon.

An at­tempt to reach Tim Ver­non of Colorado High­life ear­lier in the day was not suc­cess­ful. The or­ga­nizer is as­so­ci­ated with Colorado High­life Tours and Travel, based in Colorado Springs.

The rea­sons for the de­ci­sion were un­clear, but the change came after city of­fi­cials had set guide­lines for a con­di­tional park per­mit is­sued to the or­ga­nizer.

Among the con­di­tions, Kar­vaski said, was that the or­ga­nizer sub­mit agree­ments for se­cu­rity, por­ta­ble toi­lets and trash re­moval; plans for noise mit­i­ga­tion, park­ing and trans­porta­tion, as well as com­mu­ni­ca­tion to at­ten­dees about pub­lic con­sump­tion laws; and that the or­ga­nizer meet with Den­ver po­lice to dis­cuss se­cu­rity. The dead­line for meet­ing all re­quire­ments and pay­ing per­mit fees would have been March 30.

Those con­di­tions are sim­i­lar to re­quire­ments given each year by the city to or­ga­niz­ers of the Civic Cen­ter rally. Agree­ments with out­side con­trac­tors some­times have proved costly for that event’s or­ga­niz­ers, some­times com­pli­cat­ing per­mit is­suance.

City Coun­cil­man Wayne New, whose district con­tains both parks, said the more res­i­den­tial Cheesman Park would be a poor venue choice for a mar­i­jua­nafriendly fes­ti­val.

He noted that the event would have been on week­days when chil­dren were vis­it­ing the ad­ja­cent Den­ver Botanic Gar­dens on school field trips. A non­profit called War­ren Vil­lage pro­vides ser­vices for sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing an early child­hood ed­u­ca­tion cen­ter, near the park.

New said the lead­ers of both or­ga­ni­za­tions ex­pressed con­cern about the 420 Fest to city of­fi­cials.

“We just need to make sure we have the 4/20 events in the right place,” New said. “I don’t think any­body has any ob­jec­tion to hav­ing some­thing down in Civic Cen­ter Park, but un­for­tu­nately that wasn’t avail­able (for this event).”

Cheesman Park ad­vo­cates complained that they re­ceived notification about the pend­ing per­mit only this week.

Parks and Recre­ation di­rec­tor Allegra “Happy” Haynes told The Den­ver Post on Wed­nes­day, be­fore the can­cel­la­tion oc­curred, that of­fi­cials had waited un­til de­tails were clear be­fore com­mu­ni­cat­ing them to neigh­bor­hood groups.

“We had a lot of steps to go through,” Haynes said. “I might have been bet­ter about reach­ing out to peo­ple and giv­ing a heads up, but it was hard to say ex­actly what we thought was go­ing to hap­pen, and then to get peo­ple no­ti­fied.”

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