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It’s a privilege to go through growing pains

Mike Bennett
Mike Bennett
Staff Photo |

What town in Garfield County has a state highway running smack through the middle of the downtown? What town in Garfield County has bounced back from the Great Recession faster than the others and is at the cusp of a rebirth?

Based on the hand-wringing about traffic, pot shops, the bridge, bypasses and the homeless you may not have guessed the answer to be Glenwood Springs. I wonder what residents of western Garfield County think when they read about the challenges economic prosperity has caused Glenwood Springs. Do you think the businesses in Rifle would like to have a downtown where it was difficult to find a parking spot most any day of the week?

A business acquaintance of mine from the south side of Glenwood told me that Rifle might as well be in California as far as the folks he knows are concerned. They see the sign as they whiz by at 80 mph on their way to Grand Junction or beyond.

I suggested he might want to drop in to catch a live performance at the New Ute Theatre. Longtime Glenwood resident Don Chaney has done one hell of a job booking acts and promoting Rifle’s gem. If you want to choose from a variety of movies in the county, your only choice is the Brenden Theatres in Rifle.

The western part of the county is pondering how to create jobs and improve the local economy.

Meanwhile supporters of greater connectivity in downtown Glenwood Springs are busy at work suggesting ideas such as building new bridges across the Roaring Fork River to take some of the traffic off of Grand Avenue. Every little bit helps, you know. But some of these same people have dug their feet in when it comes to simply opening a gate on Blake Avenue to allow traffic flow to Wal-Mart. I guess connectivity is important as long as it isn’t in your own backyard.

As the publisher of your newspaper, I believe it is our role to provide a forum for a discussion of ideas to sustain our community now and for generations to come. But let’s be nice with the words we use even if we vehemently disagree with others suggestions. Sometimes we have to make small sacrifices for the good of others.

Take the recent Glenwood City Council decision to deny two pot shops the opportunity to move forward with their planned downtown locations, based on community feedback. I understand that we may not need more than three pot shops downtown and the concern about the city’s image. How many restaurants do we need?

Then I put myself in the shoes of the owners of those pot shops. They have followed the legal guidelines of the city that, up until now, has approved their plans. They invested tens of thousands of dollars as they have gone through the process. How would you feel if you had invested the time and that kind of money to move into a new home only to have the rules changed just as you were about ready pack your furniture?

I commend Garfield County for taking the imitative to bring together key representatives of all of our communities to discuss economic development on a quarterly basis. Any solution they may discover will make someone unhappy.

Let’s make careful decisions that are in the greater good of the community for years to come and then take our lumps from the loud minority. Looking at the county as a whole, we need sustainable jobs, affordable housing and tourism while at the same time maintaining a wonderful place to live.

I am optimistic about our future. With growth we may experience pain. Without growth we may experience pain. I feel privileged to live with the pain of living and working in Glenwood Springs.

Michael Bennett is publisher of the Post Independent.


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