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The Last Safe Place On The Planet

The last safe place on the planet. That’s my home town, Walden, Colorado.

I’m not the only one who feels that way. Some of those who were raised here and moved away are gradually moving back. Recently, a woman who lived less than a mile from where Jessica Ridgeway was murdered brought her family back to Walden. She felt her seven-year-old daughter would have a better chance up here.

I moved back fourteen years ago, not because of the dangers of big city living but because it seems like paradise to me. Not the kind of paradise you might find on a Hawaiian island, since it gets pretty cold here in the winter, but the paradise of the small town where I grew up, where everybody knows my name and my history and very little has changed in the last 60 years.

It is 60-plus miles to the nearest town where you can find big box stores, movies, and shopping malls. If you can’t live without those things—or the hour’s drive to get to them—then Walden isn’t your kind of place. But if you like the idea of one person every square mile, a reservoir area five minutes from town where your dog can run free to her heart’s content, friendly neighbors, and a place where one person can make a difference, then Walden might be the town for you.

Except for those few things named above, we have everything a person needs: fast Internet service, grocery store, hardware/builders supply store, Family Dollar, bowling alley, swimming pool, senior center with an OATS van for people who no longer want to drive, three restaurants (and a pizza place), three bars, seven churches, medical clinic with a doctor and PA, five ambulances and the best EMT crew in the state, a master plumber, an electrician, auto service and repair shops, hair salons, yoga classes, massage therapist.

And, incidentally, one of the top-rated K-12 schools in the state. In 2013, North Park Schools, for the third year, earned the rating of Accredited with Distinction by the Colorado Department of Education. That puts North Park among the top 10 percent of districts throughout the state, regardless of size or socioeconomics.

And while it does get cold up here, it’s not nearly as bad as the Northeast. The only dangerous weather phenomenon we have are occasional blizzards—and everyone knows to stay inside during a blizzard.

We have no traffic lights but also have no traffic jams and rush hour consists of three vehicles going north on Main Street while two are going south. We have very little crime and the police report in the newspaper has items like, “On May 31, a horse and a donkey were walking down the highway. Although this sounds like the start of a good joke, it isn’t. The owner of the equines was called.”

What we do have are moose (it’s the Moose Capital of Colorado), deer, elk, antelope (and, of course, coyotes, bears and mountain lions) and countless birds. We have alpacas, bison, llamas and yaks on various ranches. We have innumerable hiking, biking and snowmobile trails, great cross country skiing areas, and the most breathtaking mountain ranges outside of Alaska. We have clear, pollution-free skies and more sunny days per year than Miami.

Up here, you can leave your house five minutes before a meeting starts and get there on time. You can go to the post office, the bank, the library and the grocery store, and be back home in 30 minutes (although you do have to figure in time to stop and chat with everyone). You can become part of the community quickly, especially if you have a child in school.

The pace of life is sensible in North Park. There is time for everything—time to attend school programs and participate in your child’s education, time to get to know people and drop by for a leisurely cup of coffee, time to work on community or church projects, time to take tap dancing lessons.

And, of course, we aren’t anybody’s target. It’s the last safe place on the planet.

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