COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- It's been a year since Dorchester Park, just south of downtown, was partially closed off because of ongoing issues related to homelessness but a new development could help shape the park's future.
According to City Council President Richard Skorman, officials recently removed Dorchester from its list of protected parks. The decision means that a public vote or a council supermajority vote are no longer required for the park's ownership and management to change.
However, Skorman said the city wants to honor the wishes of the family who donated the park land in 1892-- the Dorr family -- and use the land for helping the homeless if it ceases to be a park.
Skorman also said the city wants to create a plan that would make it easier for residents in nearby neighborhoods to use the park. That hasn't happened in several years because the park is a popular gathering spot for the homeless, and potential visitors are intimidated by homeless activity, crime and vandalism there.
The park is in the middle of two Urban Renewal districts and officials hope that connecting them to the park -- and a walkway being built along nearby Cheyenne Creek -- will attract more park users from the Ivywild and Southgate neighborhoods.
A year ago, at the request of police, the city fenced off two pavilions at the park to keep homeless people from spending the night there and to discourage criminal activity.
"We've had some success with that," Skorman said.
A similar situation exists at Antlers Park, located on the west central side of downtown, and the pavilion there was fenced off last December. But Skorman says the city has a preliminary plan to re-develop the park because it is actually in the downtown area and closer to more amenities.
One idea that has surfaced for Dorchester is to build a day center on part of the seven-acre plot and re-develop the remainder of the park. That would provide services and a supervised gathering place for the homeless during the day.
But Jennifer Mariano, director of homeless programs for Community Health Partnership, said it's unclear who would step forward to operate and pay for such a facility.
"Our nonprofit organizations are already doing the best they can to provide services to the homeless," she said. "Maybe it should remain as a park because the homeless have few places to go, as it is."
Dorchester is generally bordered by Nevada Avenue, Tejon Street, Fountain Creek under Interstate 25 and Las Vegas Street. The park is behind the Springs Rescue Mission.
Shooks Run, a stretch of parkland along a creek just east of downtown, also has been removed from the protected list because land exchanges could be part of that park's future.