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Commuting is an ugly word.
I had a friend in New York who used to commute 30 miles each way to work and I laughed at his folly. Then my wife commuted 30 miles to Longmont for a year and I quit laughing.
For most commuters, the word just means traveling daily between two points, usually at some distance. On our treacherous roads it generally means taking your life in your hands. An acquaintance of mine was going down the South St. Vrain a few years ago and met a 20-year-old woman, drunk, coming up the canyon in his lane. He was in the hospital for weeks.
Many people up here commute and they all tell pretty much the same story: it’s hard on cars, tires and insurance rates, but it’s the price you pay to live up here.
I bring all this up because I teach down below on occasion, so I commute, too.
Few of us who live up here are fortunate enough to live close enough to our work to walk to it. Commuting is a fact of life for many of us and it’s hooked right into some of the problems now making headlines. Recently we saw a projection that says our little settlement will increase by 400% between now and the turn of the century. One wag said that meant we’d be up to over 100 folks!
One of the elements of life up here is that more people want to live here than the year-round jobs will support. So we have doctors and lawyers and teachers and many more who commute because we don’t have the permanent population base to support them here.
Now we are in the midst of a decision process involving roads, water, telephones, the church and many other issues that will decide whether this area will expand or will remain pretty much as it has for the past 70 years. And it’s more than just whether we should straighten out the curves at St. Malo and the Aspen Lodge or how big and ugly the addition to the church will be. The underlying issue is whether we are going to remain an unincorporated village, with not even a year-round grocery store, or whether we will indeed expand by 400% in the next ten years, become an incorporated village, with a mayor, expanded city limits and all that goes with it, including more jobs, more people, and less commuting.
There are many options. We could recycle the town into a replica of itself in 1910, with false fronts and a “Your Name in Headlines” shop. We could concentrate on retirement, and specialize in townhomes and more and bigger churches. Both scenarios would make some people happy.
The real trick is to make everyone happy and that isn’t going to happen in our little community if past experience is any guide at all. Still, if you ask the commuters as they set off once again down the canyon, praying they won’t run into another deer, I expect they’ll tell you they look forward to a time when they can make a living right here in Allenspark.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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