Denver parks’ bathrooms, fountains closed due to vandalism, staffing

As temperatures near triple-digits on Monday, Denverites may have to bring their own water before they go to the park.

Many of the city’s parks have broken water fountains, the result of vandalism and a short-staffed Parks and Recreation department, city officials said.

“We’re trying to open as many of the fountains as we can,” said Cyndi Karvaski, a Parks and Recreation spokesperson. “But we don’t have a clear timeline.”

It’s not as simple as turning on the water after the winter, Karvaski said. Some of the fountains have sustained significant damage and the department has been short on plumbers.

Meanwhile, 13 of the 30 permanent bathrooms at city parks are closed “due to ongoing vandalism,” Karvaski said. Parks with inoperable restrooms have an ADA-compliant portable bathroom on site.

At Ruby Hill Park, for example, someone stole all the copper tubing from the bathroom, Karvaski said. In Washington Park, individuals have placed explosive devices in the toilets four times in the past 16 months.

City officials say they’ve lost 10 portable toilets to vandalism just in the past month.

“It’s a constant problem for us,” Karvaski said.

Parks and Recreation officials have prioritized the opening of plumbed restrooms to support youth programs and athletics, Karvaski said. The city will open restrooms from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. seven days a week; outside those hours, though, they will be closed.

The city recently received approval to hire additional plumbers, though they haven’t come online yet, Karvaski said.

The infrastructure was already in bad shape across the city’s piping system. Officials turned off the drinking fountains at the end of the 2019 summer — and they weren’t turned back on in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For those looking to escape the heat and get a sip of water, the city’s recreation centers are still open as cooling centers.

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