Choices, and the consequences that follow

I rarely go into the nearby city where I was born and raised.  I haven’t lived there since 1988, and even though I only moved approximately 15 miles from there, it feels like another world.

No signs of life to be seen

For the past 20 or so years if I needed something in the city, it was only on the very outskirts, not in the middle of the town.  But today I had to go into the city and realized the city I left has become a shadow of it’s former self.

I guess I should explain why I left.  It really didn’t have any thing to do with the city. I was attending college and hated the commute with my small children.  Once I moved I realized I fit better in a small town than I did a small city.

Today my son asked me to drive him in to complete a required class to finish the process of purchasing his first home, since I know the area and my way around far better than he does.

We don’t have much need to go in to the city, so while we are very much aware of the crime that is out-of-control there, we haven’t seen the effects….until today.  My home town used to be filled with the sounds of life, neighbors visiting on the front porch or side yards, children playing, even dogs barking wanting to join in with the people about.

What we found were broken down buildings.  Smashed windows even on the second floor,  Metal grates and bars on the windows and no one out and about.  And most surprisingly, to me, the air smelled of turpentine or some other chemical yet I couldn’t find any reason for the smell.

Bars aren’t enough

People were either in cars or indoors.  I never feared for my life in any part of my hometown before I left, but the people today are afraid.

Even seeing the destruction and abandoned buildings, even seeing empty neighborhoods where people and children used to play all day, even with the failing economy…I could see the potential that used to be my hometown and wished with everything in me that someone would show the way back to the life people should be able to have.

This is the window of an abandoned building.

Cleaning up some of the businesses around the area, having the owners reclaim the living spaces above their storefronts, which used to be the norm, would help to reclaim the neighborhoods.

The upper floors used to be living quarters for the store front owners.  The hour and a half I was there I never saw anyone walk by or into these businesses.

Seeing lots overgrown with weeds behind abandoned buildings I could see the potential for community gardens and a way to reconnect with the community which would make it safer.

People could use this abandoned lot instead of letting it become a breeding ground for crime.

One empty building could be reclaimed for a neighborhood art or learning center with the lot behind it used for gardens.  People could share their knowledge in how to garden, knit, a place to sign up for help.  It could become a resource to the area instead of a boarded up building.

Abandoned building on a corner lot

The contrast only 20 miles away is striking.

Families finding time to spend outdoors with each other

Playgrounds not abandoned by the town due to insufficient monies to insure them

Adults sharing the work and teaching the children.

Feeling safe and secure, these kids don’t know what it would be like to be afraid.

A sense of community

Knowing your children can help and learn from nature and friends

I came home tonight feeling a sense of loss for the wonderful city I used to know.  I, like many others, left and abandoned the city leaving it less than it used to be.  We all had our reasons, some financial, some not.

Sure I’ve found a new home, one I love.   Yes, this was the right place for me and my family and yes, I am happy my grandchildren get to grow up safer where they are.

But I look at what has been created in my backyard.  The Little Cove and the community garden that has sprung up. I am still living the life I knew where I can freely go about my business without fear.  I still stop or am stopped by others out and about to say hello, or ask for directions.   I have a sense of loss that I didn’t stick around and create something like this there. That no one thought to save the city and keep it from falling into a wasteland of failed dreams.

Do you ever look back at where you grew up and wish it hadn’t changed so?

8 thoughts on “Choices, and the consequences that follow

  1. Oh how sad those neighborhoods look. When I was a kid, Denver was sort of a center of urban blight. We lived in one of the western suburbs and my mother would get quite nervous whenever we had to cross the dreaded viaduct into “the city.” But these days it’s totally different…. partly because Denver undertook a bunch of huge urban renewal projects, and partly because my perspective has changed – it’s the suburbs that scare me now!

    Seriously though, some of the areas that used to be full of homeless drunks are now art districts or full of sports bars & arenas, or popular walking/shopping districts with high rent loft apartments. And vacant lots are a scarcity since Denver has a vibrant urban gardening organization. And the South Platte – which used to be downright scary, is now a beautiful greenbelt with parks and bike paths – and each year they build more along the connecting streams & creeks – it’s just wonderful. The light rail system is slowly but surely expanding (with lots of grumbling along the way) but having decent public transportation has made a huge difference for the city.

    Now days it’s the inner ring of suburbs that are suffering the most with dead shopping malls and the like. But even there, things have turned around greatly in the past 10 years or so. There’s a spot that used to house one of the area’s first big shopping malls back in the ’60’s and ’70’s – it’s just a few miles from my house – actually it’s about half way between here and the house I grew up in. It had gone the way of the dead mall, and the whole area was heading downhill fast, but then some forward thinking developers got hold of it and turned the whole area into a LEED certified community with onsite solar and wind generation, housing within walking distance to lots of shops & restaurants, a big open space park, a little cultural center/museum, and even a courtyard/commons area that has an outdoor market in the summer and a skating rink in the winter – it’s lovely. I actually wrote a post about it on one of my now defunct blogs – perhaps I’ll dig it out and see if I can revive it.

    Anyhow, take heart… renewal is possible, it just takes people (and city government) committed to making it happen!

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    • Thanks, I hope I get to see the day when my hometown gets the renewal Denver received. The only renewal that’s taking place so far is pushing the problems further into the city and taking away so much of what was free. We had open land and free access to all areas of the lake, but now it’s all expensive condos and yacht clubs with restrictions to use. Unless you have a permit to be there, you can’t get near the water in most of the city now.

      I’d love to see the post you wrote about the Denver LEED community. Colorado has always been so far ahead of the game and proactive. Some of my best memories, traveling, have been in that area. In 1982 my car broke down and took several days to get the parts in for it. I was able to hike and get to know the area. I actually considered getting a job and staying. I have always had a hard time parting with money, so when the car broke down I decided I would sleep in it, which I did. But people around heard and saw me. One woman who ran a small restaurant made a deal with me, if I helped her out in the restaurant she would feed me, but she wanted to join me on some of my hikes. I had a blast. She showed me areas I hadn’t found yet, and I made a friend.

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    • It does. I don’t have the kind of money needed to buy any of those areas, and my son would probably worry greatly if I went there and tried to do something, but I haven’t stopped thinking about going into the city and trying to start something. I sort of feel I owe something to my hometown for leaving it and being part of the problem in it’s demise. I still don’t know what I could do, but it hasn’t left my mind since.

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  2. Here in SC it’s the small towns that have become abandoned- for the malls and the big cities- not that we have that many big cities here. And it’s a shame- I see all the things that could be done but they do nothing. There is a small town that got a grant and did some wonderful renovations of their downtown area. I love going there. It is quite sad to see what happens when urban sprawl or crime or whatever takes over and cities and towns become unsafe or abandoned.

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    • I haven’t been in SC in a few years, summers were too muggy for me but it is a beautiful state, I’m sorry to hear it’s happening there too.

      Around here it’s the small towns busy making sure that they stay afloat. I live in a town with a population of 7,000, but it’s also a college town so when they are here (and they just returned this week) the population doubles, but it still has it’s small town feeling. With the college here there is a lot of entrepreneurial spirit here and we have small businesses that do pretty well. Nearby there’s a town that refuses to allow any big box stores in. They have only local small businesses and do quite well. People come from all over to shop there.

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