Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

SIDE STREETS: "Who we are" in Colorado Springs not a simple query

By Bill Vogrin Updated: September 1, 2013 at 5:53 am 0

Back in a previous life, when I was city editor of The Gazette, I described my job as holding a mirror up to Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.

If I was doing my job, readers would see their reflections in the paper. My goal was for The Gazette to be the definitive place for current residents, as well as folks a century from now, to learn of life in Colorado Springs. I wanted the paper to be the authority on who we are.

Today we further that goal in absolute terms. It's why you see the "who we are" tag on this column and in the paper.

It means we remain committed to getting beyond the walls of institutions like City Hall and deep inside the neighborhoods, the schools and community centers. Those are the places where people live their lives and where we reveal, often intimately, who we are.

Sometimes folks like the reflection they see in The Gazette.

Other times they are inspired to imitate what one neighborhood is doing by initiating their own Flamingo Friday block parties, for example.

Or they spring to action to help someone in trouble, as we've seen repeatedly after wildfires and flashfloods knocked our neighbors down.

Maybe they demand action from City Hall, prompting the creation of no-parking zones in Cragmor and parking permits to protect the neighborhood from being overrun by University of Colorado at Colorado Springs students and staff.

That same goal - describing for readers who we are in all our many, complicated ways - has driven me during 11 years writing Side Streets. In my column, I tell the extraordinary stories of ordinary people in the region. I try to reflect who we are as individuals and as a community.

Part of that involves exploring who we were.

Regular readers know I have a passion for the history of the region and dig into it frequently. I agree with experts who profess you really can't know yourself as a community if you don't know where you've been.

For example, the new Mill Street community garden, paved streets, improved sidewalks, curbs and gutters are somewhat meaningless if you don't know the history of efforts in the late 1990s and how the neighborhood in the shadow of the downtown Drake Power Plant rallied to fight construction there of a citywide center for homeless services.

Knowing history lends context to the issues of the day. How many would understand the current commotion over a proposed gas station/convenience store on West Colorado Avenue if they didn't know where that neighborhood was 30 years ago?

Some west-siders fear the loss of the historic character of the shopping district there, which won designation as a National Historic District in 1982.

They cherish their history, their centuryold homes and storefronts, especially the old Garvin Cabin in Bancroft Park. They celebrate the fact that Colorado City, as it was known before being annexed into Colorado Springs in 1917, was the site of the second Territorial Legislature in 1862.

That's why the idea of a large gas station and convenience store across the street from Bancroft Park riles up so many.

With an eye on the past and our roots deep in the city's neighborhoods, The Gazette and Side Streets will continue to burrow into Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region and reveal, as fairly and accurately as possible, just who we are.

And that will include looking at who we were with the "Back Pages" feature, with a new daily historic photo as well as a new "Ask Gen. Palmer" column and other revealing tidbits you'll find inside on page B2 each day.

At the same time, Side Streets will move to new days - Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I'll keep doing what I've tried to do the past 11 years and in my previous life to bring to you interesting people, tales from the past and stories that reflect who we are.

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Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets

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