Biting my tongue . . . or not

Blogging and writing has been more difficult these last 10 months. It is not because I have nothing to say. I actually do.  I realize that not everyone agrees with me and that is ok. But I find myself mulling over the word decorum – behavior in keeping with good taste and propriety.  I find myself walking a very thin line.  So mostly I find I bite my tongue and stay away from my computer.  For me this is painful.   

The reason for my discomfort and disconnect is simple.  I was elected to a local office. So now, rather than speaking my mind, I am trying to listen more and search for the common ground.  I now represent more than my one opinion. Sadly, sometimes I fail miserably.  But I continue to try to maintain a certain decorum fitting of one holding an elected office. 

More frequently I find myself trying to choose my words, and explain my position so carefully that I get lost in the weeds and I fail to make my position clear. I rarely put words down on paper — or in the computer — because, quite frankly, you never know where they will end up and how they may be interpreted.

While I intend to maintain decorum and seek common ground, I find I must continue to write . . . to clarify to me, my position. I need to write both sides of a situation, to more fully understand it. I need to explore the issues and my thoughts.  It will benefit me and those I serve. Some will end up here.  Some will remain on my laptop.

Right now, three issues jump to the forefront.

Grand Ave Bridge (still)

First is the ever-present Grand Avenue Bridge. I will not belabor the point, but I, like many others, are looking forward to the possibilities a new bridge will bring, rather than looking backwards at what Glenwood was, 20, 30 or 50 years ago. I am amazed that after as long as we have been cussing and discussing this bridge that so many people don’t understand the need and don’t see the potential benefit. Yes, it will be painful. During the height of construction and closure, my 7 minute commute will likely be five times that — if I drive.  If I am practicing what I am preaching, I’d better be walking, biking or on the bus. But more than that, I need to find ways to get others out of their cars and using alternative transportation.

Snow Removal

sidewalk parking garage

Courtesy of the Glenwood Post Independent

The second deals with snow and the fact that it is still around on many of our streets, trails and sidewalks. And another storm is looming. This is when exploring both sides of the issue helps — just a little.

Viewpoint one: There is still a lot of snow on the city streets and it has been a few days since the heaviest snowfall. I don’t like it. But what I like even less is that we  have such a hard time properly clearing sidewalks and trails. I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist (no laughing, please) and so it bothers me to see sidewalks that have a single shovel width haphazardly scooped, or worse yet, no attempt made. In my opinion, if it is a city code that sidewalks be cleared within 24 hours, then  they should be cleared and made safe and easily passable for anyone. I would ask that the city set the example.

This was discussed by council last week and we requested that city staff provide the protocol for clearing streets.  Public Works Director Robin Millyard provided the following Information:

As follows is a listing in order of priority for snow plowing of City of Glenwood Springs’ streets.

A. Emergency routes, school bus routes, and main traffic areas such as Alternate Route – Midland Avenue to Glenwood Park, South Grand Avenue, Pitkin Avenue, Blake Avenue and Donegan Road.

B. Downtown Commercial areas.

C. Steep streets such as Cedar Crest area, Vista Drive, Sunny Acres, Traver Trail, the North Glenwood area, the Red Mountain area, and steep streets East of Grand Avenue.

D. All remaining streets in low and/or flat areas.

Grand Avenue and U. S. Highway 6 are plowed by the Colorado State Highway Department.

Robin Millyard asked that if you have question to call Rick Turner, Streets Superintendent at 970-384-6379

I am still awaiting information from the Parks Department on trails and sidewalks.

Viewpoint two:  Within the city limits of Glenwood Springs there are 84.04 “Lane Miles” of streets that must be cleared.  There are also a significant amount of sidewalks and trails. It should be noted that clearing much of the sidewalks within the city is the responsibility of adjacent residence or business.  It is the city’s responsibility to clear snow around parks, parking garages, city buildings and city trails.  Like it or not, the city has a limited budget and a finite number of staff to carry out those duties. If money and resources are put into plowing and shoveling, it is likely that some other program will be reduced.

Hot Springs Pool Outflow Pipe Relocation

Glenwood Hot Pots

Photo Courtesy of Glenwood Post Independent, John Stroud

The third is more of a comment. I believe the city made the right decision on the location of the Glenwood Hot Springs outflow pipe for a number of reasons:

The change in the floodplain mapping has created a hardship for one of Glenwood’s largest tourist attractions.

The move farther downstream mitigates some of the flood potential and the Glenwood Hot Springs liability

The pipes (the pool outflow and stormwater drainage) would have been moved by CDOT anyway with the construction

The Hot Springs is paying to have them taken farther downstream to a more optimal location.

The location to which CDOT would have moved the pipes would have meant a greater likelihood of future hot pots and the outflow pipe would not have been buried

The outflow pipe (not the stormwater pipe) will be four feet below the low water like in faster flowing water ensuring better mixing.  The flow rate of the river will help prevent random hot pots from cropping up.

The Hot Springs intends to work with the city in making some shoreline improvements while they are in the area, hopefully moving a shoreline restoration project in that area along.

Until next time, I remain your committed public servant!

Ah, Memorial Day!

No Better Place for  Fun!

Ah. Memorial Day! The official start of summer!  There are not many better places to spend a long weekend or summer vacation than Glenwood Springs. Apparently lots of other folks think so too!  I started to notice, particularly Wednesday evening and Thursday, there seem to be more people out, strolling along Grand Avenue, shopping. I watched several generations walk along 6th Street toward the Hot Springs Pool with floatation devices and observed cars turning toward the tram to head up the mountain to Glenwood Adventure Park, where Music on the Mountain starts tonight.

Cabin Fever

I have perhaps a greater appreciation for this time of year in Glenwood than some. Although I have lived in Glenwood Springs for many years, I also remember a time when long winters — the kind that stretch from September through the first part of June — brought bouts of cabin fever, the likes of which could only be cured by a trip to Glenwood Springs.

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

You see, I was born and raised at 10,200 feet in the mining town of Leadville.  While much of the snow has gone from the town of Leadville now, in spite of a very heavy snow year, the temperatures are still low.  It takes things awhile to green up in Leadville.

So it was on a weekend like this that we would jump in the car and head where the grass was literally greener.  Like so many I see now, we would shop in the stores downtown, stop for ice cream or a hot fudge sundae at the Dairy Kreme, of course spend an afternoon at the pool, and maybe take in a movie at the drive-in . . . yes, I am that old.

It was glorious fun and the best part was that we would do it several more weekends or weeks throughout the summer.

Anticipation!

This summer my son and his wife and my two granddaughters are coming “home” from the Dallas area for a couple of weeks. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share Glenwood with them.  The girls are old enough to enjoy some of the very best Glenwood Springs has to offer.  I am a planner by nature and so I am trying to make sure that they will enjoy it all . . . with a little down time in between while I catch up on work.

The last time they were here was at Christmas, so the girls are a little sad that they won’t see snow.

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy hotspringspool.com

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy hotspringspool.com

But I send them postcards now and then and the one of the Hot Springs Pool caught their attention. That is at the top of their list.  We will also do Glenwood Adventure Park, get ice cream at Sweet Adventures, let them pick candy at Glenwood Sweets,

Doc Holliday's Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

Doc Holliday’s Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

biking in the canyon, a hike to Hanging Lake, dinner at Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, a Tuesday evening at the farmers market, hike up to Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery and a visit to Doc Holliday’s grave, probably camping for a night or two.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy glenwoodcaverns.com

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy glenwoodcaverns.com

 

My sons and I will probably play a round or two of golf at the Glenwood Golf Club.  Of course there will be family BBQ’s and evening walks around the neighborhood.

If you want to come and play in Glenwood Springs this summer there is no better place to start your planning than with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

http://www.glenwoodchamber.com

 flags-in-memorial-day-2004-photo-012Memorial Day – Lest we not forget

I love Memorial Weekend for the anticipation and promise of summer that it brings.  But while I plan for my summer I will take time to remember the real reason for Memorial Day.  This weekend, take time to remember all the military men and women who served and died so that we can enjoy our families and our summers of hiking, golfing, fishing and playing.  Keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.

 

 

 

 

Small Town Character vs Economic Growth . . .

Noemi Kosmowski Painting a utility box by City Hall

Noemi Kosmowski Painting a utility box by City Hall

Engaging in a short email exchange with a colleague, Mark Iodice, recently, I was challenged whether it is possible to maintain “small town character” while having “positive economic growth.” Mark is a comparatively recent transplant to Glenwood Springs, but jumping into community involvement with both feet – which is absolutely wonderful. I can see a future leader in our midst. At any rate, I have been pondering this subject for a few days and decided to make it the subject of a blog.

First of all is the ever enigmatic definition of “small town character”. As I mentioned in a prior blog post “What is Small Town Character” a dictionary definition is elusive, but examples are clearer. However, I will start by referencing what has been called a must read for planning professionals – of which I am not. In his book Rural by Design: Maintaining Small Town Character Randall Arendt lists distinguishing features of a “traditional small town” including compactness, medium density, downtown “centers”, commercial premises, civic open space, pedestrian friendly and auto accessible, streets scaled for typical use and incremental growth outward. He also described a “sense of community” where a diverse population exists and people feel an attachment to their neighborhoods. Arendt references a book titled The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg that touts the value of gathering places like coffee shops, bars, and post office that offer a “third place” – somewhere besides work or home – to socialize and meet and talk with your neighbors. This “third place” is often missing in suburbia or larger cities.

So how does Glenwood meet the criteria of a small town as described above? We have a compact form with some civic open space and a quaint downtown center. We strive to be walkable yet co-exist with vehicles – not always successfully. We have several great “third places” including The Bluebird Café and Sacred Grounds, Doc Holliday’s, The Springs, Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company and of course the Hot Springs Pool, the Community Center and Two Rivers Park where there is music in the summer. But I think the key is the “sense of community.” Judging by the recent meetings over the Grand Avenue Bridge and Access Control Plan, people definitely have an attachment to our town and their neighborhoods.

Glenwood Springs has also received numerous “Small Town” accolades. Some of the more recent ones include being named by Smithsonian.com as one of the Top 20 Small Towns to visit in 2013. From their website, this is a description of their criteria:

“What makes a small town big on culture? For the second year running, we sought a statistical answer to this question by asking the geographic information company Esri to search its databases for small towns and cities—this time, with populations of less than 15,000—that have exceptional concentrations of museums, art galleries, orchestras, theaters, historic sites and other cultural blessings.

“Happily, the top towns also boast heartwarming settings where the air is a little fresher, the grass greener, the pace gentler than in metropolitan America. Generally, they’re devoted to preserving their historic centers, encouraging talent and supporting careful economic growth. There’s usually an institution of higher learning, too.

“Most important are the people, unpretentious people with small-town values and high cultural expectations—not a bad recipe for society at large.”

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/The-20-Best-Small-Towns-to-Visit-in-2013-196855051.html

Budgettravel.com counted Glenwood as one of the 10 “America’s Coolest Small Towns 2013” http://www.budgettravel.com/contest/americas-coolest-small-towns-2013,14/#candidate-detail12125

In 2011, Rand McNally and USA Today named Glenwood Springs as the “Most Fun Small Town in America.”

I’d say Glenwood Springs fits the bill as a “small town” and a very cool and unique one at that!

Now, on to Mark’s email. I was going to pull quotes and paraphrase but though it might be best in its entirety – so here it is:
“I don’t think the goal of maintaining a small town goal correlates with positive economic growth. In order to have substantial economic growth, you need to have an increase in capital (e.g., people, buildings, money, jobs).

“In my mind, there are many types of commercial development. The best type of community development is allowing businesses to do what they want with their land and money because it yields a higher return in capital. More capital means more tax revenue, so we can then rebuild our infrastructure, like Midland Avenue, provide health services for children or invest in our schools.

“Everything is interconnected in a small economy. For example, more car dealerships necessitates more workers, more workers necessitates more housing, more housing necessitates more construction workers, more construction workers necessitates more food service businesses, and so forth.

“In short, positive growth for one business results in positive growth for everyone.

“So if you restrict or regulate one business or land development, in actuality you’re restricting and regulating the entire local economy—which in turns results in a decrease in capital.

“However, not everyone thinks this type of commercial development is positive for good reasons (e.g., social problems, environmental pollution, and a higher burden on governmental services).

“It comes down to what the community wants for the future of Glenwood Springs.”

I don’t disagree with the premise of Mark’s thinking. It is the basis for a market-driven system. However, I am not sure he has made the argument that economic growth is not possible in the environment of a small town. I so love arguing with attorneys . . . so here are my thoughts about why it is possible and perhaps even more probable that in other environs.

Something was said at a meeting I attended last week, and my apologies because I cannot remember which meeting or who said it (Jim Charlier – was it you?) . . . but it was something to the effect that the best economic development is grown from within the community. If you have an authentic place that people want to “be” to live, work and play – then it will attract and hold the kind of people with entrepreneurial leadership that will promote and encourage economic growth and diversity. Glenwood Springs looks to be one of those places where that synergy can take place.

Glenwood is sought after because of its small town nature, beautiful vistas and recreational opportunities. But what we also have is an educated and able workforce, fantastic infrastructure, superior location along highway and rail corridors, and a cooperative attitude to economic diversity and growth. It is because we are a small town we can make things happen. We get together in our “third places” or in Town Hall meetings, or work sessions and work out our differences because we have that sense of community and of ownership and place. As Smithsonian pointed out we are “devoted to preserving (our) historic centers, encouraging talent and supporting careful economic growth.”

Yes, many people would like to keep Glenwood Springs exactly the same as when they first came, or as it was when they grew up here. There is nothing wrong with them feeling that way. It is an easy comfortable feeling – like an old pair of favorite jeans, or comfy shoes. But like those jeans or shoes, sometimes things need to change or be replaced. Sometimes you simply outgrow them. Sometimes change is simply inevitable.

The question then remains, are change and growth intrinsically bad or negative? To many people the answer is yes. For many of us that are getting older, change simply is happening too fast. I heard that many times at the Town Hall meeting the other night. People asked to slow things down, or take things one at a time. Unfortunately, in the real world, that is not always possible. But, no, change is not a dreadful thing. We have a few great examples of recent positive change. We have a new, much needed parking structure in the downtown area to support tourism and our downtown merchants and businesses. We are in the process of completion of a new library – an innovative partnership between Colorado Mountain College, the City of Glenwood Springs and the Garfield County Library. We have a world class whitewater park. We have relocated our sewer system from the confluence area, opening up many opportunities for that area. Were these projects without naysayers? Absolutely not. But in the long run, they were approved and will unlock even more potential for Glenwood Springs.

We are stronger, better able to adapt and grow economically because we are a small town. We have a sense of who we are. We also know what we need and will work tirelessly to meet those needs. Whether we are a town of 9,614 as we were in the 2010 census, or a town of 15,000 or a town of 25,000, if we maintain a sense of community and place, respect the significance of our history, continue a spirit of cooperation, and retain our small-town values, we will retain our small town character, and embrace economic growth and diversity. We are the small town that CAN!