DENVER (CBS4)– After the homeless encampment was removed from Lincoln Park near the state Capitol last week, crews discovered several health hazards that were left behind, like an infestation of rats. Once the camp was cleared, it revealed much more damage than was initially thought.
A fence was placed around the encampment between the state Capitol and Civic Center Park and once it was cleared, environmental contractors conducted an initial cleaning of what was left behind. That included human waste, used needles and syringes, and other potentially hazardous trash.
There was extensive vandalism and damage to the landscaping, irrigation, lighting and electrical fixtures, and the park’s monuments.
The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment says among homeless camps already in place, there’s outbreaks of Hepatitis A and a bacterial infection that causes severe digestive issues, known as Shigellosis.
In addition to outbreaks of Hepatitis A and Shigellosis, there have also been cases of “Trench Fever” linked to the camps in Denver. The condition is most commonly diagnosed among people experiencing homelessness or living in conditions where good hygiene is difficult.
“The staff discovered numerous safety and health hazards in the park. The safety of the public and our workers is of greatest importance,” said DPA Executive Director Kara Veitch in a statement. “The park will remain closed while repairs are made and until the landscaping in the park can have a chance to recover.”
Colorado Department of Personnel & Administration believes it will take the rest of the year to restore the park to what it was before the encampment. So far, $70,000 has been spent for environmental cleanup and graffiti removal, along with $16,069 for the fencing.
DPA estimates an additional $137,825 will be needed to restore landscaping, irrigation, and security cameras but an estimate for repair of electrical and lighting fixtures has not been finalized.
The State’s Risk Management Property Fund will cover the majority of the cost along with money from insurance may cover a portion of the damage.
The park will remain closed until December. Graffiti removal and cleanup of the park have already begun.