Grand Junction City Council member reacts to Whitman Park closure

The big question: Where does the houseless go in the meantime?
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:49 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - It’s no secret that the Whitman Park closure earlier this week caused quite a stir with residents. According to the city of Grand Junction, the park, once known as the “gem of the city” was closed to the public in order to be “re-imagined.” Now, after two peaceful protests, City Council member Scott Beilfuss is speaking out.

“People are very concerned because they know people hangout at this park all the time,” Beilfuss said. “The homeless community, especially those who are chronically homeless and have mental health issues rely on this park for a place to relax.” According to Beilfuss, many of the non-profits around the city are at capacity. “Most of the non-profits around here are maxed out right now because all the demand of the homeless population which exploded during Covid,” Beilfuss said.

Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Director, Ken Sherbenou said, “It is in line with what we’ve done before previously twice so we did a closure in October of 2022 and we did another closure in April of 2023.” This park is not unfamiliar with closure, but this closure seems to strike differently with residents. “So, to take the park away without an alternative and it’s problematic. So, definitely people are asking what is plan b and where are they supposed to go,” Beilfuss said.

Those metal bike racks you see around Whitman Park also something new for the city. According to the Communications Director, those racks cost $26,000 and are brand new just for the park. They will be re-purposed after Whitman Park re-opens.

So what’s next? According to Beilfuss, the city has plans to put a 40-unit apartment complex on a lot across from the park. That unit is meant to be a housing development for the most vulnerable in our community. Houseless seniors, women, and children will be looked at for potential residents.