Photos: Lakewood Gulch art prank celebrates day drinking, off-leash dogs

Categories: Art, News

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Big photos below.
Peter Miles Bergman is drawn to the unsanctioned. In 2004, the founder of art-prank society The Institute of Sociometry made his backyard into a faux parking lot to showcase how ridiculous it was that homeowners near the Broncos stadium couldn't sell parking or even to give it away. This year, Bergman turned his attention toward another West Denver reality: newly spruced-up Lakewood Gulch.

The trickling tributary winds through Sun Valley, one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods, before meeting up with the South Platte River. For years, the area around the gulch was a haven for unsanctioned use, including day drinking and urban camping.

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The spot where the boy drowned.
Five years ago, a two-year-old boy drowned when he and his mother were caught in a flash flood while walking on the paved path that ran along the gulch. Rehabbing Lakewood Gulch had been on the city's to-do list for years, and partly due to a new light rail line that will run alongside it, the project was completed this spring. Today, Lakewood Gulch looks nothing like the run-down, concrete-choked place where the little boy died.

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Lakewood Gulch today.

But transforming the gulch into a more open, natural, inviting area pushed the unsanctioned use Bergman so loves deeper into the shadows -- or the woods.

"When they started putting in the light rail tracks, I thought, 'That's the end of that,'" Bergman says. "That changed the 'land forgotten' feel that it had."

Or maybe not. The more Bergman explored, the more he realized that the unsanctioned use hadn't stopped; it had just moved. "There still seems to be people using it as corridor into and out of town, and camping out clandestinely there," he says. He's also seen graffiti and off-leash dog walkers. "The construction created some new pockets where people go and hide out." And go to drink. Bergman says he sees a lot of empty beer bottles.

Click through to read about Bergman's latest prank.

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