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A good way to start the next 125 years

Essay by Lynda La Rocca

Leadville – February 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine

THE WORDS “limited financial resources” are almost synonymous with Leadville and Lake County these days. Businesses, individuals, and local government alike are scrambling just to make ends meet.

Yet the voices of those who advocate working to improve, promote and preserve what Leadville and Lake County already have are being drowned out by a contingent that continually promotes ideas like building an industrial park, assuming an attitude of, “If you build it, they will come.” This same group tends to dismiss those who oppose their proposals as being against “progress.”

Personally, I favor promoting and preserving what we’ve got, namely, unique history with scenery to match. I also think it’s important to maintain our community’s integrity. That means I’d support, for example, generating revenue through underground mine tours like those currently offered in Georgetown and Breckenridge, while I would oppose construction of a Disney World-style mining theme park.

I’m appalled by the parade of consultants who sweep into town, with apparently little knowledge of the area, and sweep out again, checks in hand, after enthusing about the potential for industry. (Never mind concerns regarding infrastructure, transportation, location, and climate, to name a few.)

And I’m tired of the bickering between groups that want the same thing for Leadville and Lake County — a vigorous economy, stability, and the means to retain the sense of community that has sustained this region for 125 years.

So what do I suggest? Well, how about more of what we already do — providing visitors with experiences related to year-round outdoor recreational opportunities and to our own unequaled, authentic, frontier mining boomtown history?

On an interpersonal level, maybe we “newcomers” — and even after 20 years here, I count myself among this group — need to realize that ideas are not necessarily good ideas simply because they’re our ideas (my own included), and that expressing a different viewpoint should not automatically brand the holder of that opinion as a progress-hating Luddite.

And maybe some natives and long-time residents need to remember that change is inevitable — and inexorable.

Unfortunately, Leadville is no longer an active mining town. What is it? We don’t know yet. And why should we? A transformation of this magnitude doesn’t happen overnight or even over a couple of decades. Despite all of its ups and downs, Leadville is still a functioning community that continues to draw visitors who marvel at its history and scenery. That’s something to be proud of, in my book.

Leadville is currently rising from its own ashes. It’s a slow and painful metamorphosis. Can’t we be gentle and cooperative with each other during this process? We ought to have realized by now that the alternatives — arguing, backbiting, relying on consultants, and engaging in turf wars — don’t work. And while we’re at it, can we all wish Leadville a “Happy Birthday,” and invite our neighbors to join the party? I think, after all, that Leadville deserves it.

–Lynda La Rocca