20 April 2011: A 21st-century Clear Creek County

A 21st-century Clear Creek County

When I began teaching, I made myself a promise that when nearing retirement I would not be one whose lesson plans would largely consist of old films, wasting the time and dulling the minds of my students. When my teaching energy depleted and I lost my edge, I would go out to allow new blood to flow.

Climbing Summit High’s stairwell in January 2008, it came to me that point had arrived. It would be my last semester teaching on a regular basis. My advice to the young teacher who did his student teaching experience with me and would take my position: “Wow them along the way, but when your inner voice says, ‘It’s time to go,’ listen to it.”

At the Bottom Up Economic Development session, Sally Smith’s comment succinctly got at a fundamental problem in Clear Creek identified in the 2010 Citizens’ Survey: More people see Clear Creek as a good/excellent place to retire than to raise children—64 to 62 percent—while as a place to work, only 29 percent rate it such.

“What we need is more young families,” she said, “not more of “us’ns,” referring to the predominantly senior group she was addressing. “We need to facilitate health care, education, employment, and housing.”

If Clear Creek is to recover from the economic doldrums and move forward on the path of renewal and growth, Sally is right on target both in terms of permanent residents and visitors.

The ensuing discussion focused on not only how to attract visitors but also how to become a viable destination site. Craig Abrahamson saw a need for “connectivity between heritage tourism and hospitality,” which certainly would serve older guests.

But “young people need something to do,” Marie Claude Williams added, causing me to reflect on what my then-students liked to do, which did not include going to museums, at least the type that held antique images conjuring images of dust and cobwebs. For youth, it’s about or at least should be about hands-on activity, participation and interaction.

While 92 percent rank keeping the scenic beauty of Clear Creek County and 87 percent rank preserving natural areas habitats and open land as important, 87 percent held that job growth is too slow. In other words, we want our vistas and economic growth. Apparently 87 percent see no contradiction in those disparate outcomes.

Commissioner Tim Mauck envisions a “young, vibrant community.” Each term holds meaning.

“Young” serves both literally and metaphorically. While the future of CCC lies in a growth of young families, it also depends on adopting a perspective of the county not about ossification and demise but of renewed vigor and hope. Sort of an Obama-Reagan combo: Morning in CCC with its best days ahead in a veritable renewable energy field.

“Vibrant,” a form of vibrate or vibration, is a resonant tremolo of sound resulting from continuous motion. Ye older folks, hum a few bars from the Beach Boys’ song, “Good Vibrations” to refresh the memory.

The elections of both Mauck and Kerry Ann McHugh as Georgetown mayor signal an affirmation from voters that it’s time to move forward, to open the entrepreneurship playing field locally as our young-in-spirit governor has asked Coloradans and youthful president has asked Americans to do.

Does this mean there should be a terrain park atop St. Mary’s and a retail development atop Floyd Hill? Not necessarily, but it does mean that denial of such adventures based upon personal whims doesn’t cut it anymore.

Commissioner Kevin O’Malley is encouraged by the recent community meetings held by Clear Creek Economic Development Corp. “They’ve been very well attended and some excellent ideas have come out of the meetings,” says O’Malley.

But what’s crucial, he says, is for all of us to follow through on those ideas.

“Clear Creek County deals with some very unique challenges because of our location between the metro area and the resort communities along with our lack of land that can be developed. But, opportunities go hand in hand with those challenges.”

One of the toughest challenges of aging is what might be called the VCR programming syndrome, the 1980s seniors’ challenge. Now it’s about functioning in the fast-paced, instantaneous Facebook/Twitter world. It can be overwhelming, hence the desire to symbolically pull the covers over one’s head by nestling in a reclusive community.

But those kinds of communities atrophy and are headed for an unpleasant outcome. Those that remain vibrant and youthful in spirit and welcome fresh blood continue. That is the course opted by both Georgetown and Clear Creek voters.

O’Malley states it well: “If we can work together as a community, I’m confident we’ll be able to meet the challenges and take advantage of the appropriate opportunities.”

We should salivate at the prospect of a 21st-century Clear Creek County.

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