When people around the country — or even around the world — think of Denver, they might dream about the world-class snow skiing, rock-climbing, hiking and camping within a stone’s throw of the city. They might imagine attending Broncos, Rockies or Nuggets games. They might picture strolling through the City Beautiful movement’s glorious parks, museums and art centers. They might even think about LoDo, the Highlands, Cherry Creek and other great spots filled with distinctive restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
Few, if any, will think of the Boot.
One of the Mile High City’s most notorious contributions to society is the wheel-clamping device designed to prevent a driver from moving his or her car. It’s even called “the Denver Boot.”
Denver was the first city in the country to start using the boot to deal with unpaid parking tickets — and that’s because the boot was invented right here.
Liz Wolfson, CFO of Clancy Systems International Inc., recounted the history of the now-infamous device in an interview with Expo1000.com, a Clancy subsidiary and online industry guide:
Frank Marugg was a musician with the Denver Symphony Orchestra during the middle of the last century. He also was an inventor, and in 1953, the sheriff’s department approached him to ask for help with parking enforcement, Wolfson said. So Marugg invented and patented a device that would immobilize a car’s front tire, keeping the vehicle effectively paralyzed until the owner paid any outstanding parking tickets, Wolfson said. The Boot was born — and it spread around the world. Today, Clancy Systems manufactures and distributes the Denver Boot.
The Boot is used in a variety of contexts. It can secure an automobile or trailer to prevent theft; it can prevent the escape of someone being sought by law enforcement; it can stop a suspended driver from going anywhere behind the wheel; and it can ensure that a damaged or disabled vehicle is not used. Primarily, however, it’s used for parking infractions.
And those infractions are ubiquitous in Denver. With a metro population of nearly 2.9 people, the city has a growth rate that exceeds that of the nation, according to the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. In fact, the organization estimates the Denver metro area will reach 3.2 million by 2020. Now consider the city’s most popular neighborhoods, its urban college campuses and necessary parking restrictions due to winter snow. During peak hours, you sometimes come across too many drivers battling over too little parking spaces, resulting in having to parking illegally and incurring parking tickets.
What happens if you’re one of those drivers, and you discover that your car has been booted? According to the City of Denver’s Parking Violations Bureau, you must resolve all outstanding fines and penalties and pay a $100 boot fee. Then you must wait to have the boot removed after a four-hour minimum window. And remember, city employees are available Monday through Friday during business hours. They do not have weekend hours.
Naturally, the wisest course for Denver drivers is simply to pay for legal parking, which has been made even easier with the introduction of the city’s Park Smart Denver initiatives. The website offers information and services such as “e-minders” to move vehicles on street-sweeping days.
You also can use an online service such as the ParkMe guide to Denver to find the best parking options in the city’s major neighborhoods and landmarks, as well as at Denver International Airport.
But, if worse comes to worst and you find that dreaded clamp on your front tire, you’ll know what to do — and you can take some pleasure in knowing that you’re interacting with a small piece of Denver history … Or not.