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« Looking Forward to Some Action | Return to Perspectives On Place | Celebrating Jane Jacobs »

Going Home Again

My tenth high school reunion is coming up in June and my friends and I have decided to go.  In general, I’m looking forward to going and doing some reminiscing, but mostly getting to know people anew.  For better or for worse, no one will be the same as ten years ago.

The impending competition (isn’t that what these “reunions” are really?) has gotten me thinking about my home town. Fort Collins is more of a city actually, yet in high school it still felt small to me. It has a great downtown, fun local hang-outs, and high school football rivalries (go Lobos!). There was also space—corners of major intersections still had fields where you’d see foxes and coyotes, and a mile from town the sky was actually dark at night.   

It doesn’t feel small now. Part of the Front Range growth boom, Fort Collins has grown by something around 21,000 people since I graduated - 21,000! This number gives me pause. Selfishly, I want my hometown to be the same as it was 10 years ago, and it obviously is not. But as John Fox noted in his entry, “Looking Forward to Some Action,” getting cranky and nostalgic won’t get me, or anyone else in the Front Range, anywhere. Still, a good hard look at the flabbergasting growth that’s happened here—with a dose of “what we have and what we’ve lost”—can help Front Range communities learn from the past ten years and allow for the kind of growth that enhances their assets while reducing development patterns that many Coloradoans are just plain tired of seeing. (Like the many unflattering photographs of Colorado in Dolores Hayden’s A Field Guide to Sprawl).

There is real opportunity here to shape the way the Front Range grows in the next ten years in ways that are positive for natives and newcomers alike. My hope is that the class of 2006 can attend their reunions in towns across the Front Range and recognize their downtowns, enjoy similar mountain views, and go to the same local ice cream shops. Their towns will be bigger, there’s almost no doubt of this, but with attention to informed and collaborative planning now, I hope that they will also be better.

Jocelyn Hittle

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