My Colorado: Bound By The Spirit Of Our Community
I first visited Colorado with family on summer camping trips; I didn’t become a resident until my early 60s. I remember seeing all sorts of wild animals driving through as a child — hardly a valley without herds of antelope, deer and other wildlife. Now, I’m lucky if I see them periodically in the Arkansas River Valley.
Where there were ranch lands, there are housing developments, tourist attractions, restaurants and stores today. I miss those wide-open places, having to hike or ride further to get to them. Colorado really flooded with tourists last summer during COVID — many camping — we locals chose not to go out into our wild places when they were most crowded.
This was great for business — our Leadville restaurants were able to deliver, take out, sit on the patios and many of our main street businesses did better than the year before. More folks were able to stay here with our big mountain bike and foot races cancelled as well as Fourth of July activities and Boom Days. Our outdoor activities have been going well — fly fishing, summitting Fourteeners, camping, hiking, snow shoeing, Nordic skiing — as these may all be done at distance and with face masks. The National Mining Museum was able to do some virtual tours and complete some repairs on the Matchless Mine. Some of our stores have been open by appointment and others have done well with distancing, limiting the number of folks inside and masking. This is a whole different way to be here in Leadville, but most folks complied.
City folk were wanting to get away from crowds, so our houses are selling quickly for insane prices. There is a new mixed development going up in Poverty Flats and our local affordable housing projects are still in the works. A new Justice Center is in the process of obtaining land and our second fire station will be built this coming summer. Second house owners may be asked to contribute more to our tax base as well as clear their walks in winter (more jobs for locals). A new hospital and a new school should both open later this year.
Some old timers have left — health, family elsewhere, or ‘it’s just not like it was when I was growing up.’ Talented young folks with families and vested interests in our community have moved in along with active retirees. Our public library programming has continued, though it might be take-home and/or distanced. Included is a ‘Library of Things’ (arts, crafts, telescopes, microscopes, games, musical instruments) for checkout, as well as hotspots to connect more folks. Our not-for-profits all joined together to feed our community with the help of unemployed workers. The City of Leadville, Lake County and Community Fund gave funding to our main street businesses.
I see Colorado growing and leaving behind some things, much like the remains of ghost towns, but bringing many blessings, too. This rural mountain community continues to show up, volunteer, shovel for seniors, stack wood, provide transportation to medical appointments, getting through our virus vaccine protocol. We have had our tragedies (murders, domestic violence, lost skiers, avalanches, drownings), but we keep getting back up, surrounding our grieving families and keep on keeping on. While we are famous for our mountains, the spirit of our community is what I love about Leadville, Colorado.
Annie Livingston-Garrett lives in Leadville, Colorado, where she helps patrons navigate materials at the Lake County Public Library.
For the My Colorado essay collection, KUNC and Colorado Edition want to create a space to hear from each other and to share voices, thoughts and opinions on our Colorado experience. These short audio essays will focus on a specific topic. We welcome all Coloradans to submit their essays — whether you've lived here your whole life, or just moved to the state a week ago.