In “definitely not a sweep,” Denver police close Lincoln Memorial Park, ask people to remove their tents

They’re telling people they need to pack up and leave over “environmental health” concerns. And rats.

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

KEVIN-lighter

As Denver’s camping ban is expected to return at least temporarily, police closed Lincoln Memorial Park between Civic Center Park and the state Capitol on Wednesday citing “environmental health” and neighbor complaints. And rats.

Officers said they notified people that they needed to remove their belongings from the park, also known as Liberty Park, including the tents that have been proliferating in recent weeks.

Ann Cecchine-Williams, deputy executive director of the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, said the closure is for public health and safety and to “take a deep look at what’s going on here.”

“It’s definitely not a sweep,” Cecchine-Williams said.

While public health closures are different than closures to enforce the camping ban, which are carried out by police, the effect is the same.

Campers have set up increasingly more tents at the park in the weeks since a Denver judge ruled the camping ban unconstitutional. The city government is appealing that ruling.

One man, who would not share his name, said he received no warning. Another man, who said his name was Gregg, told Denverite he believed the cleanup was a tactic while the camping ban is in limbo.

Rats carry diseases including plague, said Danica Lee, an inspector with the public health department.

“A pregnant woman said a rat chewed into her tent while she was sleeping,” Lee said. “It’s just not a good environment. ”

Dave Burdick, Andrew Villegas and David Sachs contributed reporting and writing to this story.

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A man named Berto made a bowl of Lucky Charms before he packed his things and left Lincoln Memorial Park. Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A man named Berto made a bowl of Lucky Charms before he packed his things and left Lincoln Memorial Park. Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A man was handcuffed when Denver Department of Public Health and Environment told people to leave an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

A man was handcuffed when Denver Department of Public Health and Environment told people to leave an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Holes and trails that Denver Department of Public Health's Danica Lee said are evidence of rats in Lincoln Memorial Park, Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Holes and trails that Denver Department of Public Health's Danica Lee said are evidence of rats in Lincoln Memorial Park, Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Police Sergeant Brian Conover said his wife took this picture at Lincoln Memorial Park in September and later noticed a rat looking out of a hole. Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Police Sergeant Brian Conover said his wife took this picture at Lincoln Memorial Park in September and later noticed a rat looking out of a hole. Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Denver Department of Public Health and Environment workers break up an encampment at Lincoln Memorial Park due to a "public health and safety risk," Jan. 15, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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