This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

October 8, 2003 - Castle Rock Charrette

A couple of weeks ago, I took a walk with Stevan Strain. Stevan is one of our Library Trustees, representing the Parker area. Stevan also runs the Warhorse Inn on Parker's Mainstreet.

We strolled down Wilcox, the historic Main Street of Castle Rock, then back north on Perry Street. I'd been thinking a lot about the downtown area, so I was all set to illustrate, tour guide fashion, all the touches I thought made downtown Castle Rock so successful, so pedestrian-friendly.

Well, it turns out that Stevan had been thinking about these things even longer than I had, and more deeply. Every time I pointed out something, he'd point out out two things.

I can't remember when I've had such an interesting time. I learned a lot. One thing I learned is that most of us don't pay very much attention to our surroundings. Until you're really thinking and talking about all these things, you don't notice the subtle effect of a curb cut on how fast the traffic flows. You don't understand why some storefronts invite you, and others disconnect.

Over the past 13 years, I've seen how new libraries change the way towns and neighborhoods work. I've watched the way downtowns have developed in Castle Rock, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Sedalia, and Larkspur. Each community is different; each conducts different kinds of experiments.

Most of us just inherit our surroundings. Nobody asks us, particularly, what kind of feel we want for either public or commercial spaces. We take what we get, and all too often, what we get is soulless, tacky, cheap, and surreal.

Yet the shape of our surroundings does have an effect on us. It determines how people connect to each other. It makes it easier, or harder, to do our work well. At a deeper level, it also affects how we feel as human beings -- sheltered, encouraged, welcomed; or exposed, frustrated, and rejected.

Here's what I've decided: I want to live in a place I like. I want to be part of making wherever I am a place that's good to live in.

Fortunately, the Town of Castle Rock is giving me -- and anybody else with an interest in such things -- an opportunity to do just that.

This weekend, the Town is hosting something called a "charrette." With the able assistance of some urban design specialists from the American Institute of Architects, the public is invited to participate in a two-day process with the following goal: to generate some great ideas about the direction of the town's development.

But don't expect a dry planning committee. While there will be some brief updates on current projects, most of the time will be spent on brainstorming. There just might be some wild ideas -- Denver's 16th Street Mall came out of a charrette process.

The event will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on October 10, followed by a social event until 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, October 11, the charrette will run from 8:30 to 5:30. The location is at the new Philip S. Miller Library, 100 S. Wilcox.

If you're interested, we do encourage you to RSVP -- that way we can more accurately provide for munchies. Please call Loretta Daniel, Senior Planner for the Town, at 720-733-2232.

The results of these two days of planning just might determine what happens in Castle Rock over the next 20 years. Make a difference.

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