GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — The City of Grand Junction closed Whitman Park in September as they plan improvements for the park. On October 17, the city held a Halloween-themed ‘Get to Know Your City’ event at Whitman. Sara Spaulding, public information officer for the city told WesternSlopeNow the city holds this event three times a year and needed a place to hold the third.

“We just weren’t sure what the location would be, and then determined that, truly as we launched the reservation system for Whitman, that it made a lot of sense for the city to be the first to have an event here,” Spaulding said.

Advocate for the unhoused Eric Niederkruger protested at this event with other members of the Save Whitman Park organization. “To me it’s obvious. It was a public relations maneuver, to try to take some of the heat off the city for shutting down an entire city block.”

Niederkruger says Whitman Park’s closure just before winter forced the unhoused to find new places to stay — like Hawthorne Park — and to access resources like food and running water. Some of the unhoused at Hawthorne Park told WesternSlopeNow more people were gathered there until the city shut off the water.

Niederkruger says Whitman was a lifeline.

“Whitman Park means a lot of things to a lot of people. To the homeless community, it meant survival. When the park got closed down, an awful lot of people lost contact with each other. They lost contact with the helpers that come out and support them.”

City Development Director Tamra Allen tells WesternSlopeNow plans and community meetings are underway.

“We have another meeting coming up on the second of November, to really talk not only about the needs assessment and potential strategy, but also how it relates to our parks facilities.”

The November meeting will be in City Hall from 4 to 6 p.m.

“Closing Whitman Park is not going to solve homelessness. Reopening Whitman Park is not going to solve homelessness, but it can make the lives of the homeless temporarily better while we work on the problem,” Niederkruger said.