I love living in Colorado Springs.

Typing those words still carries a jolt for someone who grew up in south Denver, where we considered every other Colorado destination at least slightly below us. When telling friends from the old neighborhood about my deepening romance with the Springs, they respond with looks of concern. What’s wrong with David? What happened to Mr. Denver?

What happened?

Walks through Red Rock Canyon at dusk with the dying light turning the massive formations crimson and electric. Lonely bike rides up the winding dirt paths of the fantastically scenic far reaches of Gold Camp Road. Hikes with family to the top of Mount Herman, where on clear days we view glimmering buildings of downtown Denver 50 miles away.

But it’s more than scenery.

In the cliche view of Colorado Springs — OK, the typical Denver view — our city is inhabited by rigid members of the military or uptight evangelicals who invade your personal business and aggressively argue politics. The Springs, according to cliche, is drained of joy.

I know better.

On a blazing summer afternoon in 2004, I was mowing my front lawn with a push mower, and by push I mean a mower with no gas power. Through my sweat, I saw my neighbor Neil guiding a traditional power mower across the street. Neil is the classic Springs combo: a proud veteran and a devout Christian.

“This is yours,” Neil said as he placed the mower in front of me.

“Ah, thanks,” I said, “but I can’t accept that mower.”

“You will accept it,” Neil said firmly to end the conversation. “I’m sick of watching you work so hard. You’re taking this mower for my sake, not yours.”

That deep green mower remains in my shed, waiting for spring. That mower always inspires a smile. That mower reveals the truth about the kind, joyful residents of the Springs, a great place to live.

When you factor in our year-round sunshine and our warm winter days and our cool summer nights and our views of Pikes Peak and our embarrassing abundance of urban recreation, you can make a case we live in America’s premier destination. This case comes from someone who has lived in six states all across our (somewhat) United States.

The challenge is not convincing clueless residents in Denver and elsewhere about the greatness of the Springs. The challenge is keeping the Springs great.

We’re going to grow. That’s a given. The Front Range carries a magic aura, which lures Americans weary of dreary weather and blank flatlands to envision their own home in the shadow of the Rockies. Many weary Americans soon will live among us, sharing our splendor.

Sometimes, I sit in my easy chair and quake with fear while wondering if the oppressive, and highly profitable, sprawl of Denver is coming to get us. This wave has turned quaint, consistent Denver neighborhoods, once filled with 1930s Arts and Crafts bungalows or graceful 1890s Victorians, into bizarre, erratic neighborhoods dotted with 7,000-square-foot monster mansions. This wave forces rush-hour Denver drivers on I-25 to move approximately as rapidly as glaciers. This Denver wave creeps in every direction, including south toward our Springs.

Sure, this wave carries welcome cash. Home values zoom in the right direction, at least for those owning a home. Businesses thrive instead of being shuttered. Schools and roads and libraries receive the required funding.

It will be a tricky mix, welcoming the new while protecting what’s precious and unique in the Springs. It will require vigilance and wisdom.

It’s worth the fight.

I interviewed to become The Gazette’s sports columnist on a warm winter afternoon a little over 16 years ago. I walked into Phantom Canyon Brewing a few minutes after parking the rental and shook hands with Dave Sell, a straight-talking editor who got straight to the point.

You can’t live in Denver, Sell said. If you write for us, you must live here.

The ground seemed to shake. My father owned a real estate business, and I planned to purchase one of those old homes and live a couple of blocks from my dad and brother on the edge of downtown Denver.

But the unsettling residency requirement soon transformed to immense blessing filled with calming walks through spectacular parks/open space and faithful neighbors who shovel my sidewalk when I’m out of town, or, well, maybe just sleeping late.

I love living the Springs, which only reveals I’m awake and paying attention to the bounty that surrounds us.

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