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, April 21, 2004

April 21, 2004 - Big Bang

It was once thought that the Big Bang -- that moment some 80 billion years ago when all the matter of the universe exploded from an unthinkably dense Cosmic Egg -- would eventually play itself out. Then, slowly, a universe of cold dust would tug itself back home.

So the universe might have a rhythm, like the breath of a baby: out, then in.

More recent cosmological theories aren't quite so homely. Right now, it seems that universal expansion isn't even slowing down. In fact, it may be picking up speed. There might be some fundamental force or principle of space that drives all matter further and further apart, faster and faster, and this might just go on forever. Einstein thought so, then didn't.

Sometimes I think that human beings follow similar cosmic universals. Nations expand, contract. Businesses decentralize, then, when communications break down, pull back in and solidify the core.

Lately, I've been noticing a trend in cities. Something like the development of LoDo, the reinvestment of public and private dollars in a city's heart, may signal the turning of the tide.

Demographically, Douglas County is its own Big Bang. We are still in the outward phase -- new strip centers, new shopping malls, new "town centers" that aren't, really, instead bent to the service of a neighborhood or development.

But even those town centers may reveal a change. People want to cluster. There's a difference between racing in a car from one strip mall to another, and spending some time strolling along an artfully designed space that encourages you to stay awhile, a place where the measuring stick is the human stride, instead of the length of an SUV.

One example is Castle Rock. There's a lot of new construction to the north of town -- if the round of Wal-Marts, Kohls, Wendy's, Office Depots, and Targets can be called "new." (More and more lately, I find myself in places that could be any place at all, if you know what I mean.)

But then there's our gazebo: a bandstand on Wilcox, Castle Rock's main street, right outside the library. This charming, 23X24 foot Victorian recreation, is sized to host the Castle Rock Band -- a brass band that plays music from a century ago. The gazebo also has sufficient power (for sound and lights) to highlight the performances of more modern bands.

The heartening thing, to me, are all the people who have come forward to help make this modest structure a reality.

The White Construction Group has donated labor, and is negotiating numerous gifts and donations of materials. MW Golden Construction donated many man-days of carpentry work. The Rotary Clubs of Castle Rock have made the gazebo their Centennial Project. Members of the Castle Rock Band -- itself a non-profit organization -- have donated thousands of dollars.

In Highlands Ranch, work is now moving forward on the Civic Green Park. A joint fundraising effort -- stimulated by the promise of matching funds from Shea Homes (up to $717,000 dollars) is pulling together many community, and even county-wide groups (Shea Homes, Highlands Ranch Park and Recreation Foundation, Douglas County, DC8, the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Highlands Ranch Cultural Affairs Association, the library, and many others).

For more on this effort, contact Mary Colton of the Highlands Ranch Metro Districts (303-791-2710), and watch for Channel 8, Douglas County Television's special "Civic Green Park: You Can Make It Happen."

People are talking about similar re-imaginings of shared public space, in the heart of town, in Parker and Lone Tree -- efforts I'll try to highlight in future columns.

Whatever the fate of the universe, people are not rogue asteroids. We need, from time to time, to look inward, to draw together, to breathe in.

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