by Rick Langenberg:
Nearly 100 civic leaders, parents, teens, school and government officials got a chance last week to play the role as dreamers, project developers, district problem solvers, social service experts and more during the first annual Voices for the Future.
This marked the first step of a community blueprint for the southern Teller region, with forthcoming discussions expected by the Cripple Creek/Victor RE-1 School District and local elected leaders within the next few months
Sponsored by the Gold Belt Communities Build A Generation (BAG) group, the all-day Voices for the Future forum at the Cripple Creek Heritage Center attracted plenty of ideas and public discussion. “The turnout was fantastic,” said Lisa Noble, the executive director of Gold Belt Communities. “There were a lot of good ideas. People were very engaged. This surpassed our expectations.”
Altogether, hundreds of suggestions and probable solutions, regarding new projects, dream ideas and practical ways to address current problems in the southern Teller area were thrown around discussion tables in what emerged as a detailed community discussion.
Noble and a group of community leaders now have the task of assembling this information, which will play a key role in developing a strategic plan for the Gold Belt Communities BAG group. Ultimately, the goal is to combat some of the risk factors and problems facing teens and youth by developing better programs and opportunities for families in southern Teller. Some of these ideas may serve as food for thought for elected leaders in Cripple Creek and Victor in developing new policies and funding plans.
One of the goals of the forum was to involve local kids and teens more. A bus load of teens partook in the discussions and weren’t afraid to let community facilitators know their opinions regarding some of these issues and the fallacies of some of their thinking.
For example, many teens cited the fact that their parents have several jobs to make ends meet as a pressing problem, which leads to a lack of involvement, rather than apathy. They also advised leaders to not be afraid to use social media and the latest technology perks in getting their message across. According to Noble, this level of teen participation has been lacking in recent plans adopted by the BAG. “We really want to get kids more involved in the development of our strategic plan,” said Noble, in an earlier interview.
Most participants lauded the intimate approach, with eleven discussion tables assembled during the day, with subjects ranging from such mundane topics as the best and worst aspects of living in the Cripple Creek/Victor area to favorite dream projects and wishes, and ways to generate more parent involvement.
Not surprisingly, some of the big buzz issues centered around the transportation woes confronting local residents, the high teen drug use and the perception as a party hub for youth, a severe shortage of quality, affordable housing units, the lack of recreational opportunities and places for kids to go, and a lack of good jobs with regular hours. But at the same time, many civic leaders weren’t shy about proclaiming pet projects they want to see in the community, such as an amphitheater outside town, a Renaissance-type Festival, a bowling alley and movie theater, a series of old-fashioned picnics, a full-scale recreation center, a community organic garden, a Safe House for kids dealing with abuse, a miniature golf course and a nine-hole links area.
The tone of the forum was mostly positive, with many praising the assets the community has to offer, such as the Aspen Mine Center, its historic character and the multitude of park and rec programs for a small community. And the small, close-knit community fabric of the Cripple Creek/Victor area was also praised.
Virtually everyone favored the idea of doing more family events.
“That view is not utilized enough,” said Mel Moser of the Thin Air Theatre Company, in describing the view at Tenderfoot Hill and ways to do more events and activities that complement this scenic asset. “People (in Cripple Creek and Victor) are not pretentious,” added another participant. Some also touted the district’s distinction in lingering at nearly 10,000 feet.
Cripple Creek Park and Recreation Director Connie Dodrill, who acted as one of the facilitators, noted that the area offers a sense of tranquility that isn’t available in other big cities. “There is not as much tension,” said Dodrill, who formerly worked for the city of Aurora.
A few participants also gave the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company mixed views, with some touting the community dollars and commitments CC&V is making, while others cited the destruction of the landscape. This latter view, though, could be attributed to the fact that CC&V is pursuing a big expansion in Cripple Creek’s back yard, a development that has created a level of angst in the community.
Similar mixed opinions were given regarding the annual motorcycle rally. “To me, it (the veteran’s festival) was about the military,” commented one participant, in describing the change in the spirit of this event, sponsored by ProPromotions.
Organizers of the forum will soon present details of the main conclusions rendered and will then develop an action plan.