My Side Of The Great Divide
About three weeks ago a reporter from the Denver Post contacted me about writing a feature story she was writing on rural communities for an upcoming issue. She invited me for an opportunity to visit with her and gather together others who had left their city lives behind in search of a different kind of life in rural Colorado.
Being a strong proponent for our little piece of eutopia, I was eager to meet with Jennifer Brown and share with her some influential people of North Park-Walden that could offer great insight on why living here offers opportunities not seen in other rural or city scapes. Myself and six others joined Ms. Brown for a three hour “kibitzing session” to answer her questions and shed life on our rural heaven. The feature story ran this last Sunday as the cover story on the Sunday Denver Post and shared North Park/Walden in the limelight with other rural communities such as Flagler and Huerfano County. It was an honorable gesture and a respectable effort, however the story truly was a swing and a miss for giving our community the credit she truly deserves.
The story misrepresented our active community as being poverty stricken and run down. She bragged on the beauty of our area but failed to share pictures of that. There are run down homes that lack pride in ownership unfortunately. The story instead highlighted how when entering the town it may look to be, and is poverty stricken. Our community is far from it. The misconstrued quote made it sound like we live in a mountain ghost town. It was also mentioned the lack of shopping opportunities and the shallow selection of the grocery store. These quotes were a partial representation of the opinions shared at the afternoon round table discussion.
While we may lack in having a Target or Starbucks within a 60 mile radius, we have so much more. Anything that is truly needed can be found here; it is the “wants” that take more catering too. If you had seen our grocery stores years ago, I agree it wasn’t a pretty site. The opposite exists there now. North Park Supers is under new management and continues to grow and change daily. Anything I want the store management will gladly order in and they strive to offer a wide selection as long as they can make the bottom line work. For a community our size, we are fortunate to have a fully stocked store, a Family Dollar and a meat shop. The “mall” in the store offers a huge selection of outdoor items, clothing and toys. If you can’t find it there, head to Timberline Builders Supply who is also bursting at the seams as a feed-hardware-general merchandise store. Their tool selection is impressive and they even sell appliances. Let’s not forget the shopping convenience of three auto parts shops, 3 gas stations 2 liquor stores and a multitude of restaurants ranging from pizza to gourmet sandwiches and steak. Granted, our gift shops are tucked away like buried treasures, but we have them. The Rand Store and Corkles Mini Mart both offer an unbeatable selection of gifts for all ages.
People are attracted to this community for the shortcomings the Post pointed out. Our mountain vistas create a safe haven as an outdoor playground mecca. Life here isn’t for the faint of heart, with winters stretching over 7 months of the year, but the ability to enjoy where we lie is done more easily than in the Front Range. We don’t have to fight the crowds to hike to one of the 100’s of hidden gem lakes tucked into the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy sightings of rare birds or trophy hunting and fishing in the nearly 70% of public lands here. Moose, and a variety of other large game share the community park with others and are proud to boost the title of being the local “King of the Mountain” making this the Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado. We have the only State Forest that is also a State Park and attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year. The kid in all of us loves the only recreational sand dunes in the state, the North Sand Hills.
History lovers can relive the past witnessing cattle drives that replace traffic jams in our ranching community. Visitors can find our history proudly displayed in the walls of the 105 year old Jackson County Courthouse or the North Park Pioneer Museum. The museum alone is a collection the Smithsonian would drool over. History can also be found in the culture of the people here. Our village takes care of one another and is proud of what we are, showing support through community events such as the Ron Sessions Memorial Ice Golf Tournament and the North Park Never Summer Rodeo. Locals put everything out there for individuals in need, in time of tragedy and celebrations alike.
The shortcomings for opportunities for our youth may be limited athletic offerings, but their education is not limited. Concurrent enrollment is provided through neighboring colleges and our veteran staff works hard to provide educational opportunities that have yielded us Accredited with Distinction more than once. It is difficult to recruit teachers just like every other rural district, but once a teacher commits they make a choice of building a career out of teaching at North Park School District. Teachers retire here commonly with more than 30 years of service to JUST OUR SCHOOL DISTRICT. Our youth regularly graduate and move on to Ivy League colleges such as Harvard, Denver University, the Naval Academy and West Point. Our girls athletic teams were named All State Academic Team for three sports because of their commitment to their studies as much as their athletic skills. There is great pride in graduating as a North Park Wildcat.
We are far from a mix of beauty and poverty. We are a community full of life and bursting with opportunity. If someone needs a job, there are jobs available, as the Denver Post did state. Most businesses have Help Wanted signs in the windows. The opportunity for businesses to open up here is enticing with spaces available on Main Street right now. True, it is difficult to attract women to a community that is in short supply of shopping venues or a spa. Life here isn’t cut out for everyone, but if what you seek is to live a life in a safe environment, surrounded by the beauty of creation all around, then our little piece of heaven is the perfect fit.
The Sunday Denver Post made a valiant effort to highlight our community in their “Great Divide” story and we appreciate them coming to our corner of the world. The take away from this story is a cliche: “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Just come experience North Park-Walden and you will be back. The peaceful life, community activity, award winning school and beauty of creation are infectious attributes of this place North Parkers are proud to call their home.