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Faith-based Social Services (2001)
You may not like what you’re about to read. I might as well be attacking Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Still...
Before the turn of the century Enos Mills, the father of Rocky Mountain National Park, homesteaded in Tahosa Valley, some 10 miles south of Estes Park. He built an inn, and he called it Longs Peak Inn. It was the best site in the valley, as it was only four miles from the East Face of Longs Peak on the west and the Twin Sisters on the east, with a stream running through it, level ground, good grass in a meadow for horses and generally a superb place, at 8,500 feet, to enjoy the beauty of what would become Rocky Mountain National Park. The moraine in front of the East Face, like some other features in the Park, bears his name. Early in the century many famous people stayed at Longs Peak Inn. Edna Ferber thought the altitude stimulated her writing.
In the course of time the Inn changed hands, most notably after a fire destroyed the original buildings. For a time it was known as the Swiss Village. One owner mined the meadow for peat and made a tidy sum doing so.
Just to the south was another tourist accommodation, the Columbine Lodge. It was to this place that my grandfather came in 1917 and heard about a homestead available some 2miles farther south. A waiter said he sure wished he had $600, because that’s all it would take to purchase that homestead. My grandfather looked at the place, wired his wife in Iowa to come and have a look, which she did. “Edward,” she said, “if we never see the place again it’ll be a good investment.” They were here every summer until WW II. Part of that property has been in the family ever since. It’s not nearly as valuable as the Columbine Lodge or Longs Peak Inn, but it’s selling for around $60,000 an acre at the moment and it doesn’t look as though the price will go down. The taxes for a long time were $110 a year. They aren’t any more.
But neither Longs Peak Inn nor the Columbine Lodge are in private hands. Both have belonged, for several years, to the Salvation Army. Camp St. Malo, where the Pope stayed, is also in our valley, and the Lutherans and Presbyterians also have very nice places in the valley, although they don’t compare in value to the Salvation Army’s holdings. I’m not sure what they use it for, although I’m sure they’d be willing to convince me that it’s used only for Good Works of some kind, perhaps for the kind of social programs George W. Bush suggests we give them our tax money. But it’s by far the most valuable property in the whole valley, with a large number of buildings, and, because they’re a faith-based organization, like the other faith-based organizations in the valley, they pay no taxes. While they expect protection from our volunteer fire department, they don’t contribute to its funding. And when I see all those good people ringing those bells at Christmas, I wonder if they know that the Salvation Army owns, uses and maintains these immensely valuable properties. Are they used for the immensely valuable social programs President Bush talks about? I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone in the valley knows, other than the staffs of those places, who are, of course, employed there full-time. Longs Peak says it’s a “convention center,” but I’ve never seen a convention there. The Columbine is now “High Peak Camp,” but I’ve never seen anyone camp there.
It makes me wonder about all those other faith-based organizations our President is so anxious to give our tax dollars to. It makes me wonder how many other valleys we have with similar faith-based hideaways.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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