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N4T Investigators: Taxpayers frustrated by closure of downtown park

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It has now been nearly three years since Viente de Agosto Park in downtown Tucson was closed to the public. Now, some taxpayers as well as the News 4 Tucson Investigators want to know if the City of Tucson plans to re-open the park. 

"It's not fair. It's not fair at all," Tucson resident, Nabil Leyva told the News 4 Tucson Investigators concerning the current state of the one-acre park located at the crossroads of Congress, Broadway, and Church Avenue. The park is named after Tucson's birthday - August 20, 1775.  

"I love downtown. It's very beautiful, and it's very lively here. It is a shame that it's closed, because it's really nice," Leyva told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

The closure of Viente de Agosto Park in June of 2015 helped marked the end of a public battle between the City of Tucson and a group of homeless who had turned the park and the area around it into a virtual encampment. They lived and slept in wooden boxes they called 'dream pods' and dubbed the area 'Safe Park.' 

"Our goal at this point is to provide shelter to as many people as we possibly can definitely filling those gaps and that this point we're able to provide shelter to more people than most of the shelter facilities in the city so I'm pretty proud of our efforts," Safe Park founder, John McLane told the News 4 Tucson Investigators in February 2015. 

Months went by and conditions worsened. Ultimately, city officials closed Viente de Agosto Park, citing a public health risk. Less than one year later, city leaders paid Safe Park founders McLane, and John Cooper $20,000 each to settle a federal lawsuit they filed against the city in 2012, after they were repeatedly arrested for camping out in city parks. Today, people who work and visit downtown Tucson told us they would like to see the city re-open the park, so taxpayers can once again visit and enjoy the land for which they pay.  

"Oh of course, because it is so beautiful, and it's like right in the heart of the city," exclaimed Natalie Bedolla, who works across the street from Viente de Agosto Park. "People I'm sure that are visiting want to walk by and say hey, this looks like something we can enjoy, but they can't."  Bedolla told the News 4 Tucson Investigators. 

Michael Fields, who also enjoys coming downtown told the News 4 Tucson Investigators he would like to see some sort of compromise that could help lead to the park's re-opening.  

"You don't close a park just because you don't want undesirables out, because then it keeps everybody out." Fields said. 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators contacted the City of Tucson, to see when if ever Viente de Agosto park will re-open. In an email, a spokesperson told the us that right now there are no plans to reopen it. We will keep you updated. 

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to investigate, email us at investigators@kvoa.com or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at (520) 955-4444. 

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