Boulder Reservoir dinners canceled over neighborhood backlash – The Denver Post

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify who received emails from reservoir neighbors.

Inaugural dinners at a new Boulder Reservoir restaurant have been derailed after nearby residents threatened to disrupt the fundraising events in emails sent to local nonprofit organizations.

Expanding dining options at Boulder Reservoir is a project years in the making, said Boulder Parks and Recreation Director Ali Rhodes, and involved input from the community, local advisory and regulatory boards and others.

Residents who live near Boulder Reservoir have raised concerns about the potential for environmental impacts, noise and drunken drivers, Rhodes said.

According to previous Camera reporting, residents cited concerns the reservoir was already hosting more events in recent years than the past and that a “simple idea” to offer snacks for sale to boaters and swimmers expanded into an event center, which houses the restaurant, that operates daily.

The limited “Dinner on the Beach” series at the new restaurant, Driftwind, was meant to test the concept, Rhodes said, and to show that people could eat dinner and have drinks at the reservoir without impacting the surrounding neighborhood.

But those dinners were canceled in June after several residents emailed the nonprofit groups hosting the dinners with personal attacks and threats to disrupt the events.

“We were really looking forward to hosting an event and bringing people in and sharing the work we do as a community foundation,” said Tatiana Hernandez, CEO of Community Foundation Boulder County. “But we weren’t going to do that if our guests were going to be under threat of intimidation and harassment.”

Hernandez said she received multiple emails from neighbors, which included threats to disrupt the event by protesting with bullhorns at the park entrance and photographing attendees.

“What’s most unsettling is this was developed in a democratic process,” she said. “This is a community asset, it belongs to everybody and bullying tactics like this are the ways that our democracy is slowly eroded.”

Nearby resident Kim Bixel said neighborhood concerns have ranged from nighttime alcohol consumption to the impact on the environment. Bixel has been outspoken about her objections to developing a restaurant that could host nighttime events and reiterated those concerns in an email to to organizers. In a text message, Bixel wrote she hadn’t heard anything about neighbors sending threatening messages to nonprofits.

“Mostly we care about the safety of the roads for the many, many in our broad community who use 51st (Street) to recreate safely at all hours,” Bixel wrote. “And we are environmentalists who care about and steward our environment. We thought Boulder and Parks and Rec cared about that also.”

The idea of adding new amenities at Boulder Reservoir dates back to 2017, Rhodes said, when a new concept plan included expanding concessions to add a restaurant with a liquor license.

Rhodes said the Parks and Recreation department has been working with concerned neighbors since October and has made many modifications to its plans, including purchasing sound monitoring equipment to ensure there’s no sound intrusion at the reservoir’s property line. The department manages all 800 acres of the reservoir and has programs in place to monitor and protect raptors and species of concern, she said.

“I think reasonable people would think we’ve addressed (the concerns) reasonably,” Rhodes said.

But the day after the special event liquor licenses were approved in June, the threatening emails were sent.

Dinar said he’s had residents come into his other Boulder restaurants and inform staff that those restaurants would be impacted and that the neighbors would “hit below the belt and be vicious.”

One email sent to organizers by a reservoir neighbor said that if they didn’t end events earlier than planned or choose a different location, “many neighbors” would attend the events, watch for people drinking and getting into a car to drive and call their license plates in to the sheriff’s office. The email also mentions discussions about protesting outside the events with bullhorns.

Dinar said he has been surprised by the backlash and hopes there is a broader community conversation about the reservoir.

“I think it’s an important conversation for the community to have in whatever form that takes, not just for the folks who live nearby. It’s not just meant for them, it’s meant for the entire community,” he said. “If Boulder as a whole feels that it’s a worthwhile endeavor, then that voice needs to be heard also.”

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