Aurora, CO

Homeless move into butterfly garden of Aurora wetlands

David Heitz

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Jewell wetlandsVisit Aurora

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Aurora, Colo.) A homeless encampment has formed in the butterfly garden of Jewell wetlands in Aurora.

Resident Joyce Bradney told the City Council Monday that men on motorcycles “verbally and physically threatened me” in the butterfly garden. She said she believes they were drug dealers, as they only stayed a short time.

Bradney has been tending to the wetlands for almost 40 years, she said. In 1993, she spearheaded a movement to save the wetlands from development.

“A large group of homeless people” now threatens the wetlands, she said.

Mayor Mike Coffman called the wetlands “truly extraordinary.” He said he walked the wetlands with Bradney and witnessed the encampment. He said it will be swept Wednesday.

Wetlands used as ‘personal toilet’

According to Bradney, the homeless people have begun to “use the wetlands as their personal toilet. I saw a man drop his pants two feet from the sidewalk and poop.”

Bradney said she videotaped the motorcyclists, angering one who she said got off his motorcycle and approached her. She said she pointed her pepper spray at him and tried to dial 911 but was shaking so much she could not operate her phone.

Bradney said she pretended to talk to a dispatcher on the phone and the man got back on his motorcycle and left. She said she met another woman who said she was harassed in the garden, too. The two of them exited together for their personal safety, Bradney said.

Bradney said Aurora schools use the wetlands for science projects. She said she informed the district the wetlands are no longer safe.

Camping ban not working

Bradney said she’s thrilled Aurora has a camping ban, but says it isn’t working. People swept from encampments simply set up somewhere else, she said.

In other action Monday, the council agreed to renovate the restrooms used by people experiencing homelessness at the Aurora Day Resource Center.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

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