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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Orion Magazine Brings Back The Place Where You Live

WHEN Orion Magazine announced recently that they were bringing back their popular department, "THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE," I thought of a zillion things I wanted to share about the landscape I call home, and the people with whom I share it.  I also thought of the ranch in Wyoming, which my grown children still call home.  A large part of my heart still lives there - will always live there.  But there is also a part of me that is even more deeply rooted to this place, to Mt. Vernon.  Read this essay online at Orion

IN THEIR CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, the Orion editors describe the department as a space for us to exercise our sixth sense.  "Tell us about your place," they invited.  "What history does it hold for you? What are your hopes and fears for it? What do you do to protect it, or prepare it for the future, or make it better?"

AH, MAKING IT BETTER. That credo has guided the small mountain community where I live for 100 years.  Our homes, nestled in a mixed ponderosa pine forest, started as summer cabins. Narrow dirt roads wind in and out of the trees, and wildlife corridors still meander between the houses. Instead of a hundred homes sitting on 10-acre plots, leaving no open space, our homes are clustered on 200 acres, leaving nearly a 1000 acres of land as communal, natural habitat. From my neighbors’ decks, you can look east over Denver to the Great Plains, or west to the peaks of the Continental Divide.  Or sometimes, as close as the wildlife in your own backyard.

WE LIVE IN PEACEFUL PROXIMITY with elk, mule deer, bobcat, fox, coyotes, wild turkeys, golden and bald eagles, hawks, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, bear, and even the rare tassel-eared Abert’s squirrel. We don’t have manicured hedges or mowed lawns in Mt. Vernon, nor city water.  A carefully monitored, gravity fed groundwater system serves the needs of our residents, the club house, swimming pool, tennis courts, community garden and horse pasture, and fire suppression hydrant system,

Dick and Judy moved here fifty years ago.  “The people have always taken responsibility for creating and maintaining the hiking trails,” says Dick. “A short walk from your home, and you are in open space.

"THIS WAS A FREE AND SAFE ENVIRONMENT FOR CHILDREN,” recalls Judy, “and it still is. I love seeing the young people who were raised here moving back in and raising their own children.  When you live in a community like this, you understand that with freedom comes responsibility.  It’s the volunteers who take care of the land.”

MT. VERNON'S VOLUNTEER COMMITTEES include Community Activities, History, Long Range Planning, Mediation, Open Space, Renewable Energy, Roads, Weeds, and Stewardship.  A long-standing preservation partner of the Clear Creek Land Conservancy, we have also helped preserve over 10,000 adjacent acres.

Beloved Mt. Vernon icon and senior Olympian Gudy Gaskill, founder of the 500-mile Colorado Trail system, can still be seen teaching neighborhood children to cross-country ski, or pulling her grandkids up the sledding hill by the picnic grounds. 

LIKE ASPENS, THE ROOTS Mt. Vernon residents are interconnected.  And when we squabble, like any family does, we’re gracious enough to forgive each other's shortcomings.  We are, after all, in it for the long haul. We each, in our own way, protect this place that we love, envisioning its future, knowing it is as intrinsically linked to our children's future, as it is linked to our past.  


CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR OWN STORY TO ORION'S "THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE.