(CBS4) – La Alma Park and Recreation Center is reopening Thursday, one week after the city closed the space in response to a shooting nearby.
Denver Parks and Recreation announced the news at a community meeting Wednesday. Dozens of neighbors used the opportunity to defend La Alma and be heard by city leaders.
“This community is mad because we shouldn’t be punished for something we’re not responsible for. They took part of our world from us. We shouldn’t suffer any more from it. It’s not fair,” said Angelina Garcia, who has lived in the neighborhood her whole life.
Garcia was joined by more than 50 of her neighbors, as well as the family of Gary Arellano, the man killed in the nearby park last week. Arellano’s family started a petition to reopen to the park and rec center days after the shooting, saying it’s what Gary would’ve wanted. The community has been waiting for answers.
Parks and Recreation Executive Director Happy Haynes says the city used the last week to put more safety measures in place.
“We understand how important this center is and our staff wanted to get back in there. We had to determine whether there are some resources that we could put in place very quickly to try to make it a safer environment,” said Haynes. “We have an obligation to look at if there is something we’ve missed.”
Neighbors told CBS4 that the rec center actually keeps kids away from trouble.
Despite the shooting happening outside of the center, the city made the decision to close the entire grounds.
“People walk across the park, they walk to the Rec Center, these are not miles apart,” explained Haynes. “We have to be concerned about safety particularly if it’s occurred on multiple occasions.”
Haynes says they plan to bring on more staff to have an increased presence inside and out. She also spoke about the possibility of adding more cameras to cover blind spots. Many neighbors say the addition of security shouldn’t come in the form of more police or more surveillance.
“I think it should be policed by people the kids know and the adults know. Someone that they could say ‘Hi, Steve or Hi Debbie’ just somebody we know. New faces are scary,” said Garcia.
DPD says they don’t even have the staff for round-the-clock security. The city is looking into more community-based options.
“We’ll also be taking a look at the parking lot. We’ve gotten feedback from people about folks there that aren’t really using the recreation center or the park and that concerns people, so we’re taking a look at that from an operational standpoint,” said Haynes.
Neighbors are relieved to have their rec center back, but many think this won’t be the last time they have to fight for it.
“I think they’re going to try, but I also think we’re going to get lost in the shuffle again,” said Garcia.