Sundin column: What’s the hand basket for?
As I See It
Life in Glenwood Springs as we have known it is changing at an accelerating rate. Established businesses, many of whom have been around for decades, have been closing, including Safeway, American Furniture Warehouse and Rivers Restaurant. The once-thriving West Glenwood Mall, which had over 20 retailers, is now down to a handful. No longer are there major businesses like K-Mart, J.C. Penny, Radio Shack, Sears and Staples — to name only a few. Both of Glenwood Springs’ theaters have closed.
Instead, we are seeing an explosion of apartment building construction, like Six Canyons, Glenwood Green, Lofts at Red Mountain and what is proposed to take the place of Rivers Restaurant and is likely to be built in the vacant area behind the West Glenwood Mall and in other parts of town.
In the 1970s, Mim Hubbard and Barb Barnes successfully spearheaded a movement to preserve the area that is now Two Rivers Park (a name coined by Mim) from development. Glenwood Springs needs leaders like them to fight commercial development of the area north of Farnum Holt Mortuary, which logically should be preserved as an expansion of Two Rivers Park.
All these developments will increase traffic, which is turning Grand Avenue into a commuters’ nightmare, created by the replacement of the Grand Avenue Bridge with a four-lane bridge that continues to funnel all of the mushrooming through traffic onto Grand Avenue — which will soon become nonfunctional. A citizens group tried to get the City Council and Colorado Department of Transportation to complete a full Environmental Impact Statement, which would have required future traffic needs to be addressed. But the City Council and CDOT wanted to replace the existing bridge so badly they could taste it, so they turned a deaf ear on planning for future traffic and plowed ahead with what we are now stuck with.
What is driving the booming influx of people that is causing this congestion and driving housing costs through the ceiling? Large numbers of well-heeled people are fleeing California, Texas and the Atlantic Coast and Gulf States to get away from threats of fires, rising ocean levels and increasing temperatures. As a result, average working families are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing they can afford to buy, let alone rent.
But in moving here, the influx will continue to encounter a climate that is getting hotter and drier. In 2020, the total precipitation here was less than one-quarter of the long-term average, and so far this year is below 50% of normal. The resulting reduction in the flow in the Colorado River is projected to more than double water rates over the next 10 years, making lawns and golf courses increasingly unaffordable.
There are also increasing social and political costs that result from a steadily growing population, reflected in a growing intolerance of “other” people. It shows up in the increasing number of mass shootings and the rush of people to buy and carry guns, and the increasing aggressiveness of drivers. As congestion increases, people regard others as nuisances and even enemies instead of as fellow humans. Political and racial differences are becoming more violent. The more people that are armed, the more shootings and killings there will be — a truism the NRA is unwilling to acknowledge.
Finally, there are the radical, religious and political prejudices of too many Americans that divide our society and damage our relationships with those who do not agree with us. Racial prejudices against Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Jews and other minorities have no place in a civil democratic society but have been present for so long that they are poisoning our society.
Religious prejudices are strongest among Evangelicals, against those who do not accept their limited definition of religion and attempt to dictate what the rest of us should or should not believe or accept that others hold beliefs that differ from theirs.
Political prejudice is the current position that cooperation with the other party is tantamount to treason and may result in ostracism from one’s own party. It has evolved over the past few decades from a time when the two parties could reach compromises and accomplish something. The current intransigence is causing people to lose faith in American Democracy, which Donald Trump and his disciples were able to capitalize on.
It all looks like the future of Glenwood Springs and the whole world may be going to Hell. That is what the hand basket is for.
“As I See It” appears monthly in the Post Independent and at postindependent.com. Hal Sundin lives in Glenwood Springs and is a retired environmental and structural engineer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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