23 January 2008: What kind of Clear Creek do you want to pass on?

What kind of Clear Creek do you want to pass on?

The January 9 edition of the Courant was one of the better editions in terms of a flow of ideas. If you step back and read each letter relative to the others, you might note they collectively get at the kernel of the issue before us in Clear Creek: What kind of Clear Creek do we want to pass on?

What is at stake is the soul of Clear Creek County. On the one hand, will it be a hovel of claptrap houses, filled with workers eking out subsistence living sandwiched between the abounding wealth of Jefferson and Summit counties?

At the other extreme, will it be like the model of futuristic communities of densely populated centers, no longer dependent upon the anachronistic oil-and-gas, rubber-on-the-road vehicle, but primarily on a high-speed, clean-energy rail for transportation?

Into all this, where does quality of living fit? On bread alone man does not live, but we still do see a model of economic development as the essence of a community playing out with disastrous results: environmental degradation and soulless neighborhoods populated by folks whose evening goal is to get inside their automatic garage door. I submit it’s a primary reason most of us opt to live “up here” and “not there.”

I have to admit to little patience when it comes to silver-spooned kids who never knew what it’s like to work for a living, to sacrifice, to do without, and not experiencing taking a “no” for an answer. The one in the White House, who failed at every venture he undertook beforehand and has maintained his track record perfectly since, is Exhibit A.

The Eclipse venture, the brainchild of a silver-spooner, looks more like a parent giving his kid 10 bucks for a movie and popcorn—OK, 20 bucks now—to get him out of the house and his parent’s hair. Eclipse is Michael Coors’ $1.65 million trip to the theater, and one day he’ll outgrow it, insisting next on the keys to the car, dude.

I admit as well to stereotyping when I think of “development.” I liken it to over-the-top Christmas tree decoration. What Nature has given us that is beautiful, some feel the need to ostentatiously adorn and pronounce even more so, an all too often meaningless and short-term ritual. Two weeks of tinsel with the end result of pine, fir, and spruce cadavers, tossed out or ground up for fertilizer—just like you and me one day soon: six feet under or cremated and dust to the wind.

Not all development is bad, though. The plan for the lakefront property in Georgetown, should it ever get going, is well considered and likely to be a boon to the community.

One thing is certain: the Clear Creek of the future, like the rest of the state, nation, and world, will be quite different than that of today. Innovative approaches to living—jobs done from home and off-site, jobs with work schedules of extended stretches of time on and then off, high-speed rail replacing fossil-fuel vehicles, education beyond the walls of the school, and much more—will inevitably shape the face and character of the county.

The old paradigm of “growth” will become, of necessity, extinct. At some point, the earth—and some argue it already has—will reach its capacity. So will land-locked Clear Creek in which over 80 percent of the land is public with only two percent actually available for “development.” The challenge before us is to develop a new paradigm of growth that doesn’t rely upon old assumptions and prescriptions that tax the environment.

We immigrants, who have fled urban sprawl to join multi-generational old-timers, relish living in a place where sprawl has not been experienced and prefer not having it imported and imposed upon us.

A few weeks ago, Peggy Stokstad of the Clear Creek Economic Development Corporation, Commissioner Kevin O’Malley, and Georgetown citizen Tom Wilson, whose letter appeared last week, joined me for a discussion on the county’s future on KYGT. We talked about the different facets and implications for the future including “smart growth” and the need to maintain open spaces—quality of living. I encourage everyone to access it at www.kygt.org.

As noted, each letter in that edition of the Courant is superbly written, containing provocative arguments about where we should or should not go in terms of our future. My favorites are Jim Simasko’s satirical letter about “who benefits” from Eclipse and Grace Todd’s poignant and evocative piece that gets at ultimate implications of our choices.

Grace’s description of the serenity of Silver Lake and her treks to be part of it takes me back to seventh grade and Mrs. Laugherty’s reading of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees.” A few lines: “I think I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree. / A tree that looks at God all day / And lifts her leafy arms to God and pray.” Sure, it’s syrupy by modern standards, but then Kilmer was a poet-soldier much like Gen. George Patton, and few argued with Patton.

When I researched the poem to be sure I had the wording correct, I came across this gem by Ogden Nash: “I think that I shall never see / A billboard lovely as a tree. / Indeed, unless the billboards fall / I’ll never see a tree at all.”

When I read that, I visualized the north side of I-70 from Idaho Springs to DLD. There’s our future if we so desire it.

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