What is “Small Town Character”?

Confluence Area from Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram

Confluence Area from Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park tram

Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone . . . er . . . Glenwood Springs . . .

My sincere apologies to Garrison Keillor. This blog lacks the eloquence of Mr. Keillor’s musings but, in some very small way, perhaps serves a similar purpose – simply informing the local folks about what is going on around town – particularly concerning local concerns. No, we don’t have a Chatterbox Café but we have the always popular Daily Bread. We have no Bertha’s Kitty Boutique, but we have the caring staff of All Dogs and Cats Animal Hospital. We also don’t have a Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery but we have a fantastic Downtown Drug. Come to think of it, Glenwood Springs IS the quintessential small town America. We have the best of all worlds, right here, squeezed between some red mountains and roaring rivers. Lake Woebegone should be so lucky!

I attended a couple of meetings this week that simply drove the fact that Glenwood Springs is what all the urban planners or smart growth advocates mean when they talk about small town character. While working on the 2011 Comprehensive Plan we debated the meaning of “small town character” and while a dictionary definition is elusive, a definition by example is crystal clear. Let me see if I can illustrate.

Wednesday evening the Sonoran Institute, an organization fondly described to me (NOT by me) as “responsible tree-huggers” but self described on their web site as “Shaping the Future of the West” facilitated a community goal setting meeting for what locals know as the “Confluence Area.” This confluence area has been delineated as a roughly 23 acre area bordered on the west by the Roaring Fork River, on the north by the Colorado River and – depending on who you talk with – an area encompassing School Street to the east and extending to 11th or 12th on the south. It is a mixture of public and private land whose potential has been unlocked by the relocation of the City’s sewer treatment plant.

Google Maps - Confluence Area

Google Maps – Confluence Area

I have participated in a few exercises and programs that the Sonoran has facilitated and Clark Anderson and Jillian Sutherland did, as usual, an amazing job of keeping the focus of the group on the task at hand. Through a grant by the Gates Family Foundation, the Sonoran Institute, in collaboration with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and the City of Glenwood have been successful in bringing in some outstanding consultants, Jim Charlier of Charlier Associates as well as Tim Van Meter a partner, architect & urban designer at Van Meter Williams Pollack and a lecturer for the University of Colorado Leeds School of Business to assist in this endeavor. They are working with a group of various stakeholders from throughout the community to explore, develop and recommend opportunities for this area.

At this meeting plenty of ideas were discussed through a guided conversation and some team activities. You could feel the excitement and optimism building as the evening progressed. I heard several comments from various participants to the effect that it was encouraging that people with often differing views on many things were able to agree on major goals for this area.

Light bulb!!!!

THIS is small town character!!! People working elbow to elbow in cramped City Council chambers, pouring over some graphics of a triangular piece of land literally in the heart of town, discussing, disagreeing, putting forth ideas, listening and finally being able to agree on some key principals of what this area means to this community. These are some of the same people who have been at loggerheads over other issues in town – but – as a community – a true kinship is forged. This is small town character. This is Glenwood Springs. Eat your heart out Lake Wobegone!

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