By Elliot Jackson
The Central Colorado region is rich in community radio – small public radio stations that cater to the musical tastes and talents of their listening areas. Some of them cover a wide listening area; others, like Salida’s KHEN, are LP (low power) stations that might cover only a few square miles. And at least one has made the transition from LP to full-power station: KLZR in the tiny town of Westcliffe (population 568, not including cows), formerly KWMV-LP. That a town this small has a community radio station that has not only survived since its inception in the early 2000s, but thrived as an all-volunteer station, is a testament to the vision and devotion of a handful of folks who were there at the beginning and continue to guide the station’s development.
The handful of folks include KLZR board members Joanie Liebman and Gary Taylor, station manager Bob Thomason and long-time DJ and correspondent Shanna Lewis. But it was Westcliffe businessman Lou Kravitz who got the ball rolling in 2001. According to Liebman, Kravitz took note of the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) decision to open up some LP licenses, and made the decision that “Westcliffe needs a community radio station.” He worked with Thomason and others to create the application. Instead of forming a separate 501(c)(3) (non-profit) organization to apply for the license, they decided to approach the Westcliffe Center for the Performing Arts, located in the town’s historic Jones Theater, to make the application on the group’s behalf. The WCPA agreed, and the group applied for the license in 2001. It was successful, and KWMV, as it was then known, built its broadcast studio in the southwest corner of the Jones Theater.