July is the month when everything gets stretched a bit too much at 9,000 feet above sea level. Patience gets stretched. Allergies get stretched. Work gets stretched. Knowing that the days are getting shorter, even recreation gets stretched as we all try to squeeze in as much as possible while the sweet summer days envelope us. The good news is that it doesn’t last forever. The bad news is that it doesn’t last forever.
A couple quick stretch observations from this week’s Crested Butte town council meeting…
It appeared there was easy opportunity for conflict and tension over the honoring of local skater Levi Parr at Monday’s meeting. But it stretched into the positive instead, and for that we can all be grateful.
As the reconstruction of the Big Mine Skatepark goes on this summer — and watching from my office as the Evergreen Skateparks crew pulls together a new skatepark has been amazing…those guys are really good — friends and family of Levi saw a chance to honor Levi. The 21-year-old died last summer in a tragic accident that also took the life of another man. While that incredibly unfortunate incident put a shadow over the idea, the skate community and town council focused on Levi’s life, not his death.
The meeting Monday was not only a demonstration of effective small-town democracy in action, it was also a bit of a catharsis. The discussion was filled with tissues and tears, honor and hugs. Passionate tributes to Levi from his friends and the myriad parents who watched him grow up swayed the council to honor Levi whose life revolved around the skatepark where he flourished. He apparently welcomed all who came and set the kindhearted tone for a skate culture that accepted locals, visitors, kids and adults — anyone who wanted to skate and respect the park.
Councilmembers Beth Goldstone and Anna Fenerty voiced legitimate concerns about naming a physical thing after a person. The circumstances of Levi’s death were traumatic and could have ripple effects in the community that spill into the mental health realm. That part of the public conversation was obviously difficult to have but it took place. It is representative of what we do in this community. While not easy, we have the hard discussions, listen to one another, respect the other side, and move on. Moving on in this case was Levi’s dad Jacob stating plainly and publicly that the family respected the opinion of both Beth and Anna and he gave them each a hug after the discussion was concluded. It was powerful stuff.
As was pointed out at the meeting by the mayor, people are complicated. The tributes on Monday made clear that Levi’s life had a positive impact on any number of kids in our community. The decision to honor him with a badass Levi’s Ledge skate feature in the new park was a good one.
Later in the meeting, the council briefly touched on a directive to have the town staff consider not only the Cosentino property at Sixth and Gothic as a spot to locate a replacement post office for the North Valley, but also the green space south of Stepping Stones by the Knight and Dragon sculpture. My first impression is that you couldn’t stretch the idea into a worse direction.
One of the great and unique beauties of Crested Butte is the story that is told as one comes into town. Heading north you get an incredible view of the mountains as you top the entrance hill. It is not unusual to see plein air painters set up at the crest, capturing the aptly named Paradise Divide.
As you descend the hill there is the community school on the right with a soccer field in front. During the school year it is filled with loud, running kids. It makes clear this is a living community. Passing Red Lady Avenue there is a chrome sculpture of a knight fighting a dragon. There is obvious symbolism in that piece as the community has never shied away from a legitimate fight and it has been successful in most…including the Red Lady fight. It is located next to a daycare facility…again, making clear we’re a real community with real families.
Then there is another expanse of green space. The open green space is a choice. It is also where the free Alpenglow concerts are held and local kids gather in the fall to play soccer. It is the lawn that leads to the Crested Butte Center for the Arts. While the old facility is looking a bit worn (that too is part of our disappearing charm), the new building, Big Blue, is a world class facility that provides a vibrant hub for the local and international arts. It is where we gather to watch dance, listen to speakers, catch plays and view interesting works of art. It makes clear we are more than an outdoor attraction and we appreciate the ethereal as well as the physical. Pitsker Field directly to the north is where the little kids play ball and that spills into the Four-Way and the tennis courts and Visitor’s Center.
On the left side of the entrance is treed open space, the Red Lady Estate mobile home park where workers live, businesses like the grocery and nonprofit movie theater, another workforce housing project in Anthracite Place and the hardware home of a former cat idolized by the townsfolk. Our underlying story is symbolically laid out clearly as one physically enters the community.
The idea to put a post office — perhaps one of the worst measures of institutional government bureaucracy that has little regard for the community it serves (the people working there are exceptions to that description of course) —is awful. Not only does it throw a giant stain on our distinctive storyboard but being situated at the edge of town by the school instead of the center of town at Sixth and Gothic would purposefully add more chaos to an already chaotic traffic situation during certain times of the day. It’s not a stretch to say it is just a horrible idea.
So there you have it. It’s July. July can simply be a busy, rough month for a lot of people. The key is to not stretch things so far it all snaps. My heart was positively stretched with the skatepark discussion, and my mind was stretched toward explosiveness with the post office idea.
Believe it or not, we’re about halfway through the summer madness. Take another breath and reign in the stretch. And if you haven’t gone by the skatepark, stroll by and be impressed by a really efficient crew doing really good work. Now, let’s pray for the monsoon…-