Citizen Spotlight: Helen Rogers’ mission builds community strength in Rifle
Citizen Telegram Contributor
“Citizen Spotlight” is a monthly feature profiling a longtime resident of Western Garfield County and their contributions professionally, personally and otherwise to make this area an attractive place to live. If you know someone who might be interesting to tell others about, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 384-9114.
Helen Rogers has always been on a mission to make things better.
In her early career, she worked in mental health as a recreational therapist, striving to make people happier and help them to improve their lives from the inside out.
Next, she became an interior designer.
“Doing that work, you get to change people’s environment in a positive way,” Rogers, 59, said.
No matter how good things might be, Rogers is always looking for ways to make them even better. That’s how she came to be a major leader in dozens of projects and organizations aimed at improving the Rifle community over the years.
Rogers lived in Rifle from 1984-94, working at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs as a recreational therapist. During that time, she worked with a group that established The Citizen newspaper.
“We were tired of all the negative news,” she said. “So, we made our own newspaper.”
It eventually sold and merged with The Rifle Telegram newspaper.
Rogers and her first husband and their two sons moved to Boulder for 10 years. A new relationship brought her back to the Western Slope 10 years later, and she has been in Rifle this second time since 2004.
“Western Colorado is a great place to live,” said Rogers, who lives near downtown Rifle. “Especially after being on the Front Range – you see how busy and crowded it is.”
She runs her own interior design firm, focusing primarily on commercial clients. Rogers has designed office spaces for Colorado Mountain College, banks, doctors, real estate companies and several residential properties.
Rogers also took a part-time position nine years ago with the Rifle Downtown Development Authority.
A strong and vibrant downtown is important to Rogers because she believes it’s an important part of a strong Rifle community.
Rogers helped to get the lodging tax issue on the municipal ballot years ago. That was a big success, she said.
“That afforded us the Visitor Improvement Fund,” she said. “Now we can afford to do projects that create an avenue to try to bring more people into the community – get more heads in beds.”
Rogers is chair of the New Ute Theatre Society board. The historic former Ute Theater recently reopened as an events center that has the potential to draw major events and performances that could attract visitors from outside of Rifle, and will almost certainly offer new entertainment options for locals.
In addition to helping to lead the restoration project, Rogers donated half of her interior design work on the project.
While Rogers has the organizing power to complete large-scale projects like the events center, she sees value in little victories as well.
The Main Street program is dedicated to creating more vibrant communities. The Rifle group helped turn the vacant lot at the corner of Railroad Avenue and West Second Street into a gathering place. Outfitted with sunshades and shrubbery, the lot has proven an ideal location for a new Friday night Rifle Farmers Market.
“I’m not the only one who does all this,” Rogers said. “It truly takes a village, and the more people you have, the more successful it is.”
Her next project will involve relocating the boat ramp.
“We need better connectivity with the river,” Rogers said. “It’s a major natural resource that is underutilized.”
All the necessary permits required to move the boat ramp to a different site on the south side of the Colorado River have been obtained, she noted, so people will be able to put in and take out downstream of obstacles like the bridge trusses. All that’s missing is the funding, which she and other community members have started trying to raise.
Now that Parachute has a new boat ramp, Rogers envisions people being able to float the river between the two towns.
After the boat ramp, Rogers has her eye on the historic bridge. She imagines applying for state historic grants to see what it will take to open the bridge up to pedestrians and fishermen.
“We have a lot of great public resources that are just underutilized,” Rogers said. “I think showing people there are other options and things they can do right here is important, especially for people who might not be able to travel.”
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