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N4T Investigators: Downtown park closed 4 years

TUCSON – A Downtown park has been closed 4 years, and city leaders are still trying to figure out how to reopen it.

Veinte De Agosto Park became a homeless camp in 2015. With pressure from the business community, the city closed the park entirely.

The park is in Council Member Regina Romero’s ward. She said she agreed with the closure at the time, but now she wants it open.

“I’ve been very frustrated with the parks and rec department for its lack of work on trying to make it work for every resident of the city of Tucson,” Romero said.

Brent Dennis took over the parks department last year. He said he has been busy with park improvements voters approved with Proposition 407. He hopes to shift some of his attention to Veinte De Agosto.

“It’s always tough for me, as the parks director, to see that sign that says ‘park closed,’” Dennis said.

Dennis and Romero talked about community involvement to figure out how to reopen the park the right way. They also said they should consider just removing the signs.

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Romero said. “As a matter of fact, I’ve been pushing for that to happen.”

“We’ll have that conversation,” Dennis said. “I don’t know what the downside would be exactly, but I also know there’s lots of history, and I don’t want to be naïve about it.”

Michele Ream is a homeless advocate who lives Downtown.

“We didn’t really eliminate the issue,” Ream said. “We just pushed them farther from the core of Downtown.”

Homeless people frequently gather in the nearby Presidio Park and Jacome Plaza.

“It hasn’t really accomplished much,” Romero said. “I think that we will have a homeless population throughout the city.”

Dennis did not want to commit to a timeline, but he said he hopes the park can start being used again in less than a year.

Sam Salzwedel

Sam Salzwedel is an investigative reporter at News 4 Tucson – KVOA.

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