Friday, August 27, 2010

Fort Collins Stories

Reader Story #2

My husband and I came to Fort Collins in 1964. We had moved to Denver after he graduated from Kansas State University. I graduated from the University of Denver and taught school in Denver Public Schools. My husband earned his Masters Degree in History at DU and got a job as Colorado Deputy State Historian. The job allowed us to do lots of traveling in Colorado, and we enjoyed visiting Fort Collins.

While my husband was pursuing his PhD at DU, he was offered a job in the history department at Colorado State University, as a mid-year replacement for an ailing professor. He accepted the job, and we moved to Fort Collins in January. It was a very stressful transition for us. My husband had never taught at the university level, and I was pregnant and having serious complications. Despite being in a new place, with a new doctor, I felt well-cared-for at PVH and in the community at large.

We had two lovely daughters. When my husband became ill in 1968, I went back to teaching. I started at Jean Irish Elementary, which opened that year. I stayed there ten years and then taught for ten years at Lincoln Junior High.

My husband died in 1974. As a single parent, I had opportunities to leave Fort Collins, but I wanted to keep my family here. This is such a wonderful place to raise children. All of the awards Fort Collins has won are because of the pride people take in this community. I am pleased that I am able to stay involved, including serving my second term on the Transportation Board, where I am the last original member. I also serve on the UniverCity Connection Transit and Mobility Committee.

--Sara, savvy senior

Friday Fun Mystery Photo:

Does anyone know where in Fort Collins this photo was taken?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 2: Nature of the Poudre River

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the Cache la Poudre River. I’ve splashed in it, thrown stones in it (“spelunking,” as Calvin and Hobbes would say), floated on it, picked my way across the rocks when it was merely a trickle. But over the past few years, the river and I haven’t exactly seen a lot of each other.

This spring, when the Poudre surged over its banks, I was reminded what a dynamic presence it is in this town. And I realized I really don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it got its name from the French trappers who cached their gun-poudre along its banks. So I decided to take advantage of one of the city’s guided walks along a section of the Poudre River trail.

It was raining steadily when I arrived at the east parking lot of Lee Martinez Park, but the intrepid Rick (Master Naturalist) and Janet (Naturalist-in-Training) were ready and willing to lead the four of us who chanced the weather. Rick offered us bug spray (I should have thought of that) and binoculars (ditto), and we set off. In typical Colorado fashion, the rain didn’t last long. We were then able to close our umbrellas and free up our hands for the important business of shooing away mosquitoes.

A river is not only about water any more than a forest is only about trees, and Rick was well-prepared to educate us about the Poudre riparian ecology. Though there was evidence of deer in the hollows of pressed-down grass and of beavers on the riverbank, the critters we saw were the winged kind: a turkey vulture soaring overhead, a downy woodpecker hopping through tree branches, the blue-and-white flashes of two belted kingfishers swooping low over the water. (And the mosquitoes. Did I mention the mosquitoes?)

We saw evidence of humans, also. Too often, that means beer cans and cigarette butts, but as we crossed the bridge to the McMurry Natural area, this is what we spied on the riverbed below:

Way cool.

Random interesting things I learned on my first-ever guided river walk:
--The Poudre is Colorado’s only designated Wild and Scenic River;
--The lower Poudre is a National River Heritage Corridor;
--The predominant native tree species along the river are the prairie cottonwood and the crack willow;
--Kingfishers can burrow 8 feet deep into the riverbank;
--Turkey vultures are related to condors, not vultures;
--Small side ponds serve as kidneys, filtering runoff before it reaches the river;
--The cross-section of a cottonwood has a star shape of darker wood within it;
--The city uses a gritty gray paint on the lower sections of some trees to deter beavers; and
--The first recorded use of the name “Cache la Poudre" is in Col. Henry Dodge’s report of July, 1835.

As we passed the area where a former junkyard is being restored, a member of the group commented on how lucky we are to have the river trail so close to town. So true. There are 17 natural areas along the river. Get out and enjoy one.

For more information about the City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Program, click here.

Ellie, Rick, and Mike after the walk

Friday, August 20, 2010

Fort Collins Stories

Reader story #1:

My story is not unlike what you describe. I did not choose Fort Collins, my parents did. My Dad fell in love with Colorado, Fort Collins in particular, around 1955 when he came out here to help start up the Woodward Governor plant. He knew some day he would have to figure out a way to move to Fort Collins permanently. That day arrived in 1976 when he was asked to transfer out to Fort Collins from Rockford, IL – my hometown. I was eleven when we moved here, and never knew how fortunate I was to grow up here until I was much older and visited other places around the country. Don’t get me wrong, there are thousands of terrific places to live in our great country, but Fort Collins is very special. The 300-plus days of sunshine are at the top of my list, and breaking out the snow shovel a few times a year is at the bottom. A pretty fair trade, in retrospect. Fort Collins has allowed me to get an education, meet and marry the girl of my dreams, find a good job, raise our two amazing boys, and meet hundreds of nice people along the way.

--Mark, 45

Friday Fun Mystery Photo:
Can anyone identify where in Fort Collins this picture was taken?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Week 1: "Native" at Nonesuch

I gave a lot of thought to the question of where to begin my native explorations and decided I could do no better than Nonesuch Theater’s musical production, Native. Upon arriving at the little theater tucked away on Pine Street in Old Town, I chatted with David, who sold me my ticket and very humbly trumped my nativehood by telling me he’s a seventh generation Coloradoan. (Darn my Kansas/Missouri-born parents!) Undaunted, I found a seat and had a few minutes to take in the ambience. It’s a small space (“intimate," as they say) with lots of beautiful red brick, forty-nine seats--not a bad one among them--and that cool round thing in the floor that looks like either a manhole cover or a portal to another dimension.

The cast of four kicked off the show with a clever opening number, and the fun continued from there. In short, Native made me laugh. A lot. And loudly. I won’t repeat the jokes because a) there were too many of them, and b) I don’t want to be the spoiler. Let’s just say I came away with a new appreciation for what it means to be a native Colora-din. We’re high altitude, high energy, and occasionally high maintenance. (A fact every waiter and barista in town can no doubt confirm.) We take it all in stride—the traffic, the trains, the transplants, the crazy weather, the possibility of being eaten by wild animals while enjoying a leisurely hike. Best of all, we’re not above poking fun at ourselves, including some good-natured jabs at our malodorous neighbor to the east.

Native is coming to the end of its long run, but if the material has gotten stale for Mark, Amy, Nick, and Gina, they didn’t show it. They kept the energy up and the laughs coming. Generally, I don’t mind arriving a little late to the party, so to speak. I wait for movies to come out on DVD and seldom buy books in hardcover. But I do wish I would have seen Native months ago, to allow me time to forget the jokes and see it again. I also should have taken advantage of the Nonesuch/Rustic Oven dinner-show package. That’s a whole lot of Old Town goodness for thirty bucks. Oh, well…next time. And there will be a next time for me at Nonesuch.

Thank you, David and Nick, for making me feel so welcome, and for helping me kick off my Choice City Native challenge in great style.

And I’m so grateful to finally, finally, know the reason Fort Collins is vampire-free.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Challenge Begins

I’m a native of Fort Collins, Colorado, aka The Choice City. The funny thing about the name is that no one chooses his or her hometown. It’s a choice made by our parents, who act on their circumstances, their necessities, their whims. Like seeds, we are wildly sown or deliberately planted. And no matter how long or short a time we spend in the place we call “hometown,” it will always have that distinction. Life has kept me in Fort Collins through education, marriage, and motherhood, and the older I get, the more I realize how lucky I am to be here. My choice was not the choice to come here, but the choice to stay put.

As I was growing up in Fort Collins, Fort Collins was growing up around me. Based on the population statistics for 1960 and 1970 (taken from Fort Collins History Connection), approximately 35,000 people lived here when I was born. The estimated population in 2009 was closer to 137,000. We’ve seen a lot of growth and a lot of change, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job keeping the spirit of Fort Collins intact through it all.

I recently realized, however, that even though there are more things to do here than ever, I’m doing the same ones over and over. (To quote actor Jason Schwartzman, “I'm a creature of habit. I go to restaurants all the time and stuff.”) And so my challenge was born: shake up my routine by doing one new thing every week for a year. It has to be something I’ve never done, and it has to happen in Fort Collins.

Please stop by on Wednesdays to read about my latest Choice City experience. On Fridays, I’ll share the stories of other Fort Collins residents, past and present. If you’d like me to include yours—what brought you here and when, or what compelled you to leave—send me an email at ccnative(at) (First name and age are fine, and no attachments, please.)

See you around town!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Come Back Soon

Please return to read my introductory post on Monday, August 16, 2010.