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SCL Health Buys Into Clear Creek Crossing

By Mike McKibbin

Avideo showcasing how the Clear Creek Crossing project might look in Wheat Ridge includes an SCL Health sign, signifying the end of a short but controversial conflict between two medical care providers.

Project developers and SCL Health signed a contract for the sale of a 25-acre parcel of the project to the parent company of Lutheran Medical Center, after word spread earlier this year of a potential new hospital or medical care facility operated by UCHealth at the site. That prompted a flurry of emails from Lutheran staff and Wheat Ridge medical care officials to city officials, opposing a rezoning request from the developers, Evergreen Development Co. of Denver.

A large crowd of Lutheran staff and supporters turned out for a Feb. 12 Wheat Ridge City Council hearing, where Evergreen was granted a continuance of the matter to March 26. The company held a community meeting March 22, where the sales contract with SCL Health was announced.

After a lengthy public hearing March 26 – which included the video –council approved the rezoning request of the 109-acre site on the west side of Interstate 70, between approximately 34th Avenue and Clear Creek, from planned commercial development to planned mixed-use development. The change gives Evergreen a broader choice of residential, employment, retail, hotel, restaurant and entertainment uses, including a medical campus.

Lutheran officials have said they will study their options for the site and were conducting due diligence on the property. The contract is expected to close by the end of May, according to Evergreen Executive Vice-President Tyler Carlson.

“This is the largest undeveloped property in Wheat Ridge,” he told council members. “I would never expect we would all agree on what we do with the property, but we hope to have a baseline level of civility as we move forward. We want to see an all-inclusive, multi-use community.”

Whatever use Lutheran proposes for the parcel will need city planning and zoning commission approval, possibly council as well, city Community Development Director Ken Johnston noted.

Part of the parcel SCL Health plans to buy is in the 500-year floodplain of Clear Creek, Carlson noted, but the company plans to build that portion of land up out of the floodplain.

Highway improvements to start soon

As part of the project, a $10 million highway improvement project has involved the city, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration. An environmental assessment determined necessary improvements to the surrounding local street network and I-70. Bids on that work will be sought in May and will take about a year to complete, Carlson said. It will include an exit off I-70 directly into the project, he added.

No single-family homes are planned for the project, Carlson said, only 300 apartment units. One half will be one-bedroom units, the other half two-bedroom units, he added.

Residents expressed concerns to council about protecting wildlife and open space along Clear Creek, the loss of views of the Flatirons and the Front Range and a lack of affordable housing in the project and city as a whole. Other concerns came from residents of the nearby Applewood community over property taxes and public safety due to increased traffic, while others worried about the height of buildings in the project.

Mixed-use zoning allows certain non-residential buildings to be 90 feet tall, said Johnston.

Council members hope project moves forward

Councilman Tim Fitzgerald said the project would give the city “something unlike anything else in the city and the near area.”

“I’m extremely impressed how the developer has carefully listened to our citizens,” he added. “He’s been considerate of Clear Creek and the trail system there.”

Councilwoman Leah Dozeman – a Lutheran employee – said her main concern was to ensure a major employer at the project site was not a nonprofit and would produce sales tax for the city. Lutheran and UCHealth are nonprofit operations.

She added when city voters approved funds for “hook ramps” off I-70 into the project site several years ago, it was with the assumption of a major “big box” store anchoring the project.

“We were going to have major commercial and retail sales tax generators at that time,” Dozeman said. “I hope we will see that in some shape or form.”

Earlier plans for the property included a Cabela’s store in 2005, which were dropped when the Great Recession happened several years later. The site was also considered for a Super Walmart before the company bowed out last year.

Carlson said Evergreen was glad those two companies bowed out of the project.

“Those plans were made before Amazon was the Amazon we have today,” he noted, referring to the huge online company that has made large inroads into the retail industry. “I think it was a blessing in disguise that Cabela’s pulled out. If they had built a 1 million-square-foot, big-box retail store, right now it would be filled with things like churches and trampoline places. Nothing against those establishments, but that’s not what you bargained for back in the day.”

The city collected $27,175 from Evergreen for the rezoning process, and the city expects to reach a tax increment financing agreement with the developer to fund portions of necessary public infrastructure, using a portion of city tax revenues generated from the project.

Carlson said Evergreen hopes to have enough retail business commitments to start groundwork on Clear Creek Crossing this fall and the first businesses could open in 2020.

Rev Up For The 44th Avenue Rumble, May 12

By Elisabeth Monaghan

Springtime marks the return of some of the Wheat Ridge community’s most popular activities, the 44th Avenue Rumble – Cruise and Poker Run among them. Now in its fourth year (or sixth, if you count the two years it was called “the Harlan Street Rumble”), the event will take place on May 12. Whether someone collects cars or simply enjoys looking at them, this event is always a hit. In previous years, the Rumble has taken place on a Sunday, but because this year’s event would have conflicted with Mother’s Day, it will be on Saturday. Registration for participants and vendor set-up starts at 7 a.m. at Anderson Park, 4355 Field St., in Wheat Ridge, with the park opening to the public at 8 a.m. As with years past, there will be about 200 automobiles, including classics, hot rods and muscle cars on display. The Poker Run begins at 11 a.m., during which, participants will draw playing cards at each stop along way. At the end of the Poker Run, the individual with the best hand wins.

Restaurants along the route will offer food and drink specials until the event ends. Following the Poker Run, which is expected to end around 1 p.m., prizes will be awarded at Anderson Park. There will also be a variety of prizes for winners of the car show.

Grammy’s Goodies will be on hand to provide food and beverages for purchase. Additionally, there will be live music and vendors. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Wheat Ridge High School’s STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) programs.

While there is no entry fee, participants are required to register.

For more information on the 44th Street Rumble, visit www.44thrumble.com.

Farmers Play Ball At Rockies’ Coors Field

By Alexander Rea

Wheat Ridge High School’s varsity baseball team got the special experience of playing on Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, for a non-conference exhibition against Monarch High School on March 23.

Both baseball programs were asked to sell Rockies tickets in exchange for a fun-filled day that all levels got to enjoy.

     “Every player in the program is supposed to sell 25 tickets,” said the school’s head coach Adam Miller. This will be the 16th year Miller and WRHS have worked with the Rockies.

     Players offered tickets to four different Rockies games: May 29 vs. San Francisco Giants, June 1 and 2 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, and June 19 vs. New York Mets.

For all the players who sold their required tickets, they were granted the day off from school, a bus ride to Coors Field, a tour of the big league locker room, and even got to take pictures and play catch on the field.

“The Rockies, weather depending, may curtail the lower level activities or some of our pregame, but unless it’s raining or snowing the varsity is good to go,” said Miller.

The weather ended up being a factor as the game was originally scheduled for Monday, March 19, but was pushed back to that following Friday. The seven-inning game ended in a 3-3 tie.

Senior Payton Dietrich played his last inning on Coors Field, at least in a Farmer uniform.

“Playing on a big league field was an awesome experience, having no bad hops was great,” exclaimed Dietrich who gathered nine putouts during the game, to prove he’s qualified.

“My favorite part of the game was actually getting my first hit of the season,” continued Dietrich on his one-for-three day with a walk and a stolen base.

“I sold my Rockies tickets by taking them to my sister’s games and selling them to parents there and also my mom and dad helped sell them at their work,” said Dietrich, who has become an expert salesman over the past four years.

The program works as an excellent trade as players get a rare opportunity to see a big league field at the ultimate perspective, and the Rockies in turn get a great look and some seats filled.

Antique Appraisals, May Pole Dancing May 12

By Janet “White” Bradford

The Wheat Ridge Historical Society’s May Festival on Saturday, May 12, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will feature an antique appraisal booth, may pole dancing, craft demonstrations and sales, musicians providing songs to sing along, and lunch heated on the wood stove in the Soddy.

It won’t be as fancy as the “Antiques Roadshow,” but it should be fun to learn what grandma’s things are worth today. Local appraisers will be at the Historic Park, 4610 Robb St., in Wheat Ridge to give values to your family treasurers. To make the appraisals go faster we are requesting that participants post a picture or two on our Facebook page with a description of the item. We are requesting a $5 donation for each appraisal at the festival.

The May Pole Dance is a spring favorite and this year we will have a dance at 11 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. to accommodate those who can only make it in the morning or afternoon. Our 14-foot may pole has ribbons that were donated by local flower shops in the 1970s, making it almost as old as the City of Wheat Ridge!

We have local musicians join us monthly and we now have two groups to enjoy. Our recorder musicians play a variety of tunes and will have lessons later this year. Our guitar musicians also play a variety of tunes for our visitors to sing along. Bring your instrument or voice and join in the musical fun.

If you’re feeling crafty this spring, bring your items to show, tell and sell. Local crafters are encouraged to bring their handmade items to the May Festival. You can show your items, give demonstrations of your craft and/or sell your crafty wares. If you started too many plants this year you can sell your extra starters here as well.

The May Festival is at the Historic Park where we have a collection of several buildings that tell the story of the community begun by a handful of farmers. One of the buildings is our implement shed, filled with old-time hand tools that were once used on the area’s truck farms. Come see how our members have cleaned out the shed and displayed the hand tools of the past – this was a member’s project this April.

Lunch in the Soddy is only $6, $4 for kids, cash or check only.

Bring your questions about the Wheat Ridge area to our historians and bring the whole family to learn a little Wheat Ridge history. If you can’t make the May Festival you can take a tour of the Historic Park when it is open, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours are only $2 per person, cash or check only. Please call our museum hostess at 303-421-9111 for groups of 10 or more.

Our Historical Society Meetings are the second Tuesday of the month at the Red Brick house at the Historic Park, 4610 Robb St., starting with a social at 7 p.m. and meeting at 7:30. Snacks provided. Committee meetings are the first Friday of the month at the Red Brick house from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The Wheat Ridge Quilt Circle meets the fourth Wednesday of the month at the Historic Park, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Cost is $2, cash or check only. The Quilters are working on a quilt for the Historic Baugh House now and all crafters welcome.

The Historic Baugh House, at West 44th Avenue and Robb Street, is open every second Saturday of the month from 10a.m. to 2 p.m. Call 303-421-9111 for more information.

Check us out on Facebook – The Wheat Ridge Historical Society – and watch for our website coming soon.

Two Edgewater City Properties For Sale

By Ken Lutes

Whether it’s a scrape or rebuild, we just want the right development,” said Edgewater deputy city manager Dan Maples, on the sale and repurposing of the city’s present municipal building at W. 24th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.

Maples hosted a half-dozen potential developers and architects at a March 26 open house and site visit inside the municipal building. Discussion at the meeting centered on the city’s planning process and physical design issues and emphasized a keen preference for a business that will generate strong sales tax revenues.

“Edgewater is 100 percent sales tax driven,” Maples said, stressing the importance of retail business along the Sheridan corridor. “We don’t have property taxes here that would come back to the city.” The municipal building is zoned C-1, “and we anticipate it’ll stay that. We’re very protective of our commercial corridors.”

On March 27, developers inspected the second property for sale at 5845 W. 25th Ave., the site of Edgewater’s old city hall, its former fire department and a Jefferson County library. It is also the city’s desire to retain the C-1 zoning for this property, to further establish the retail character of 25th Avenue.

“We like retail, and we’d like something to contribute for the long term,” Maples said.

The 25th and Gray property is mixed with residential, making it different from the municipal building property, which is on a high-density commercial corridor.

“There’s a lot of neighborhood community we have to be aware of,” Maples said. “As far as what we want with [these properties], we really just want the right development that will fit with our long-term goals with sales tax and future retail, as well as a fit with the community.”

Maples said the city would like to have a deal on both properties by the time they move to the city’s new Civic Center building in September.

The Request for Qualifications and Proposals for developers may be found at www.edgewaterco.com; links to RFQPs for both sites are in the right-hand sidebar. The deadline for proposal submission is noon, April 30.

In related news, the W. 20th Avenue and Depew Street property (former King Soopers site), which has been vacant since the city bought it in 2002, is currently under contract for redevelopment with Littleton Capital Partners. The city is further along with LPC than with the previous developer and is optimistic about plans for redevelopment, according to Maples.

To Call Or Not To Call, That Is The 911 Question

By Nancy Hahn

The new Jefferson County 911 dispatch center, called Jeffcom 911, will provide shorter response times and better service for emergencies throughout Jeffco. Over 65,000 emergency calls are expected by the center each month. What to do in an emergency hasn’t changed – call 911.

So, what is the advantage of this central dispatch center? Smaller, localized 911 centers can be overwhelmed with calls. The biggest problem had been people calling for non-emergencies. Many people don’t know the numbers to call for a non-emergency, but everyone remembers 911. The lines become tied up, so a person with a real emergency can’t get through and gets only a busy signal. A genuine emergency, also, results in a flood of calls. When every call taker is already on a call, the response to emergencies can be delayed. When the emergency is genuine, those busy lines can be a hazard to people in danger, also.

How do you decide whether to call 911 or the non-emergency line? A 911 emergency is a situation that requires a firefighter, medical help, or a police officer right away. A fire breaks out – call 911! Someone has chest pain, is choking, threatening suicide, or has sudden severe pain – call 911! You see a burglary or an assault happening – call 911!  You see a car crash – call 911!

Do not call 911 if the neighbor’s dog is barking, if the power goes out, or to discuss paying a fine.

If you are alone and hear someone break in your home – call 911. If you come home and someone has broken in your home, call the non-emergency number.

If you aren’t sure, call 911 and let the 911 operator help you decide. Stay as calm as possible, give the call taker all the information, and answer all questions. Once you have done that, the operator will let you know if it is an emergency.

When you call 911, listen and follow the directions the operator gives you. Be ready to provide the address, cross streets, or another way to identify the location. This is very important if you are on a cell phone, because the operator can’t pinpoint your location.

What if you realize you have dialed 911 by mistake? Stay on the line. Explain your mistake to the call taker. Why? This ensures that no time is wasted calling you back or even sending emergency vehicles.

Who do you call with a problem if it isn’t an emergency? Police and fire departments have non-emergency phone numbers. Your town’s website probably provides the non-emergency police department number, as well as other commonly requested phone numbers. There are several fire stations in most towns, so check for the non-emergency number of the one nearest to your home. Once you have the non-emergency numbers, make note of them or put them in your phone.

Edgewater’s website (www.edgewaterco.com) provides a link to the City of Edgewater Police Department on its home page. The page for the police department provides Edgewater Police Department’s non-emergency number, 303-322-7273; Jefferson County non-emergency dispatch, 303-277-0211; victim outreach, 303-202-2196; rape assist and awareness, 303-322-7273; and crime stoppers, 720-913-7867. Additional links to contact forms, safety tips, the school resource officer, traffic enforcement, and other topics of interest are listed. The Edgewater Police Department recommends Neighborhood Watch programs as a way to keep neighborhoods safe. More information on the program is available at volunteers@edgewater.com.

Two Creeks and the West Colfax corridor are both served by the Lakewood Police Department, at 445 S. Allison Parkway. The non-emergency phone number is 303-987-7111.Information about Lakewood’s Police Department is found at www.lakewood.org/police/. A menu on the Police Department website includes links and phone numbers for animal control, 303-987-7173; code enforcement, 303-987-7566; crime prevention, community outreach, and more choices. Nearly every link includes additional information and links.

Sloan’s Lake is served by the District 1 Denver Police Department (www.denvergov.org/content/denvergov/en/police-department/police-stations/district-1-station-nw-.html) at 1311 W. 46th Ave. The non-emergency number is 720-913-2000. The Resource Officer for Sloan’s Lake is Officer Robert Gibbs. The website has a list of phone numbers for specific purposes from reporting graffiti to reporting hate crimes. There is, also, a menu of “Most Requested” links, including the cadet program, animal complaints, and neighborhood watch information.

911 has made a huge difference and saved many lives in emergencies. Knowing the non-emergency numbers or how to find them can open a line for a person trying to call 911 in an emergency.

Robert Autobee – Journalist and Historian

By Michael Autobee

Robert “Bob” Autobee, journalist and historian, age 56, of Lakewood died in Corpus Christi, Texas, March 18, following a short illness.

At the time of his death, he was deployed with FEMA to support Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts as an historic preservationist. That he found the most obscure job in the federal government is not a surprise because my brother Bob was as unconventional as he was smart.  His first love affair was with journalism and it started 1964. At age three, he read the newspaper out loud for family and friends, leaving them absolutely amazed. He pursued every topic that interested him. He could not casually read a book and move on rather he totally immersed himself. Bob was our answer-man. Now we have to use Google like everyone else.

Bob always had a unique way of looking at things. He shunned the established and popular. While most kids were playing football, basketball and baseball, my brother would be arranging the backyard as a rugby field, or a cricket oval, or an Australian-rules football field. Usually our little sister Kristina and I were the opposing team. Don’t get me wrong, very little in American sports escaped his notice.

The family had little doubt that he would someday be a writer. His young imagination was active – he wrote and illustrated stories and he created his own comic books. He wanted to be a sports broadcaster. For a high school graduation gift, Bob received a complete stereo system from his parents. He started slowly with rock and pop music, but eventually plunged himself into jazz, R&B and Latin music.

While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications at Metro State, Bob worked on the Rocky Mountain News copy desk. One of the perks was writing articles for the paper. He started writing record reviews for the Friday arts section of the News. He parlayed the record reviews into a job with Westword as a Jazz critic. For that job, Bob interviewed the Latin Jazz great Tito Puente. The interview was before a concert and Tito was upset because his luggage was missing and he always performed with tie on. Bob offered his necktie to Puente to wear onstage. Tito took him up on his offer and played the entire evening wearing Bob’s necktie. How many idols do you get to give your clothes to?

To continue his education, he attended University of Northern Colorado to earn a master’s degree in History – thus the evolution of a historical preservationist. The Colorado Historical Society printed his thesis, “If You Stick with Barnum: A History of a Denver Neighborhood,” in their monograph series

Bob’s writing skills took him around the country. He worked for small newspapers, wrote federal government histories for dam and irrigation projects, performed archival research for Indian communities attempting to obtain official tribal status, and lobbied Congress for water conservation programs.

Once back in Denver, he established roots. He bought a house and packed it with all the books and records he could. He became quite domesticated and pursued gardening.   

In 2002 Bob met his future wife Kris at a meeting of the Colorado Corral of the Westerners, an international association of western historians. Mother and I had lunch with him after that meeting and we both encouraged him to ask her for a date. With their intellect and their love of the unconventional, it was only a matter of time that they would be married. When it was time expand their family – they bought chickens.

Writing for their jobs did not allow Bob or Kris to expand creatively. So they found ways to write what interested them. Many of you know the results - two books on the history of Lakewood and one on the lost restaurants of Denver, articles for scholarly journals, local newspapers, and city and county historical societies.

He was not overly fond of technology, but learned to use tools like Dropbox so he and Kris could collaborate no matter where they were.

He lamented Denver’s growth and waxed nostalgic for the great city of his childhood.  I think his concern about the ever-expanding Denver led to his recent focus on Lakewood and specifically Colfax Avenue. He felt that he would affect change on a smaller scale. His interactions with the West Colfax Community, 40 West Arts District, City of Lakewood, and the neighborhoods’ residents were satisfying relationships.

Bob had a terrific sense of humor, irony and sarcasm. His laughter was always honest and genuine. If I could get him to laugh then I knew he was unguarded and relaxed. All our lives, when we got together and our mother would come into the room, she would ask, “Why are you two giggling like a couple of little girls?”

Wherever he was, he called his mother daily and reached out to me and our sisters once or twice a week. I’m sure he called Kris more often than just at tea time. He encouraged his nieces to make the most of their education, work hard, and follow their dreams.

What do I take away from my big brothers life? Work hard, respect people, honor the past, and pursue dreams with laughter and love. In the daily grind of life it’s easy to take granted what we have, but as an observer I think he had a very rich life.

Bob was preceded in death by his father. He is survived by his wife Kristen, mother Margaret, siblings Victoria (Doug Mass) Autobee, Michael (Robin) Autobee, and Kristina (Jed San Pietro) Autobee, nieces Amanda (Chris Sterling) Autobee, Samantha Autobee, friends from all walks of life, and two pet hens.  Services were held at Our Lady of Fatima, Lakewood, on March 28. A Celebration of Life at Pure Colorado Events Center followed the services.

Ideas For Impatient Gardeners

By Nancy Hahn

Have sunny days made you impatient to work in your garden? It’s hard to know what to do, when the Rockies home opener reminds us that warm days are here one day and snow back the next. Experts from Young’s Market and Garden Center at 9400 W. 44th Ave., Southwest Gardens at 4114 Harlan St., and Abner’s Garden Center at 12280 W. 44th Ave., agreed that now is the best time for clean-up and soil preparation. But, we don’t even have to wait for planting.

“If you can get a shovel into the ground, you can start preparing the ground for new plants or seeds,” said Tammy, the sister of Cary West, the owner of Southwest Gardens.

Loosening the soil and adding compost are ways to get the garden ready for plants or seeds. Weeds are easy to pull from the wet ground. General cleanup, also, makes your garden look ready for spring. She also pointed out that outdoor cacti and succulents are fine blanketed in snow.

“But, watch out after a big snow. Don’t plow heavy heaps of snow on them when you plow the driveway or the sidewalk. That is a death sentence.”

Cary West has variety after variety of succulents and cacti in the outside garden that have poked through the snow. Even more will be arriving soon.

Ed Becerra sat in a toasty warm Young’s Market with every entry covered with plastic curtains on a very cold day. He suggested that now is a good time for soil preparation. You can rototill in compost and bone meal. Now is a good time to clean up around perennials. Leaves and other debris can be cleaned out of garden beds and be composted. Dead branches of perennials can be removed. Ornamental grasses need to be cut as close to the ground as possible.

“You can start planting on about St. Patrick’s Day, though,” said Becerra. “All your root vegetables – yams, beets, onions, turnips, rutabagas – can get started while the ground is still cold.”

Many plants are fine if they get covered in snow.

“Remember,” Ed says, “Snow is a blanket. Frost, though, can be dangerous, so cover young plants with lightweight fabric.”

Reed Becerra at Abner’s Garden Center, surrounded by a wonderful assortment of houseplants and fun garden art, said loosening the soil and adding fertilizers or natural enrichment is a great beginning. Also, early spring is a great time to spread grass seed in any bare patches and overseed thin areas in your lawn.

“You can even plant some hardy flowers, like pansies and violas,” he said. “Pansies are tough. You can plant them outside as soon as we get them. You can plant a bowl of lettuce that you can bring in if a freeze is coming.”

Reed suggested kits for planting seeds inside, if you just can’t wait. Then, seedlings can be transplanted into the garden later in spring.

Spring cleanup sounds a lot more interesting with pansies, a lettuce bowl, and some hardy vegetables decorating that clean garden.

Colorado Playwrights To Have Theater Space in SloHi

By Ken Lutes

Theater 29, located at 5138 W. 29th Ave., is set to produce its first play May 17. Theater 29 is the brainchild of Lisa Wagner Erickson, local Denver playwright and West Highland resident. The primary purpose of this new theater will be to shine a spotlight on the works of Colorado playwrights.

“People will have a chance to see new works by Colorado playwrights,” Erickson said.” At present, it’s typical for local playwrights to send their work to a contest or a venue in another city, where you might be competing with 500 people and not know much about the venue or what they’ll do with your work. At Theater 29, playwrights can have a seat at the table, if they want to, and see their vision come to light.”

Erickson is excited to have “Burnt Offering,” by Denver playwright Dakota C. Hill, be the theater’s first offering, as it were, presented by theater collectives Feral Assembly/Chase & Be Still Stage. The play will run May 17 through 26 (except May 20).

“Theater 29 won’t be a company, per se,” Erickson said. “It’ll be more of a space where companies or collectives like Pandemic, Rough Draft, Feral Assembly and Dirty Fish can use the space for their productions.” In addition to play productions, the space may be used for stage readings, improv shows, literary events, classes and workshops.

“I wanted a theater that would 99 percent provide a space for Colorado playwrights. Other [Denver area] theaters and companies do produce shows by Colorado playwrights, but there are none I know of that do that exclusively. Theater 29 won’t be able to produce every single play locally, but it will at least promote that vision.”

The theater building, the former site of a martial arts studio, now meets ADA requirements and will seat about 40. The basement contains an open space for set building, costumes and storage, and actors will have dressing rooms and their own restroom in the basement, with access directly to the stage area. Erickson estimates the entire space at 3,500 square feet.

Erickson’s vision for a local theater had its roots early on.

“In elementary school, I was in a show for the World Wildlife Fund. I was always interested in acting, so writing became sort of a sidebar. In fifth grade, I was in a play where I got to write my own part. I didn’t really write much until I got into an MFA program a few years ago at Leslie University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

While at Leslie University, she developed an idea for a 10-minute play about a woman trying to give up her bathroom scale [portrayed by a male actor], because she has a new boyfriend, and she’s been over-relying on the scale for validation and approval. “She’s trying to meet less and less with the scale,” Erickson said. The title of the play is “Step on Me.”

While working on her low-residency MFA program in playwriting, which she finished in 2013, Erickson discovered that “I really liked the camaraderie of hanging out with other playwrights and hearing work aloud.” Returning to Denver, she attended a workshop about self-production at the Denver Center [for Performing Arts] led by Gary Garrison, who at the time was the director of the Dramatists Guild.

“I had the idea in the back of my head that it would be great to have a theater at some point.”

Erickson then became interested in forming a development or production group and fell into a playwrights group that was starting one.

“The group they formed that I got into ended up being Dirty Fish Theater. It’s a local playwrights collective. We did a show three years ago of 10-minute plays and got ‘Best of Westword.’ I had fun with that experience.”

Erickson believes there’s a greater sense of community when attending a live performance, versus other forms of entertainment.

“The experience of live theater is always different. There’s a shared experience you don’t necessarily get from, say, a movie. For theater to work, both actors and audience are needed. It’s exciting, it’s never the exact same performance. Each performance is a collaborative experience between the actors, director, and the lighting, sound and set designers. That happens in movies, too, but then it’s fixed on film and never changes.”

Of her own works, which she says are usually slightly absurd, she’s considering producing “The Mrs. Greenland Pageant” next year. It’s about a bored woman who lives in a small town on the eastern plains of Colorado. Mrs. Greenland and her husband make up and roleplay different sitcoms. The wife is almost 30 years old and becomes convinced by friends and the local PTA that her eggs will soon dry up. She becomes fixated on the 1950s and believes she can become perfect; once she’s perfect, her husband will be, too.

“As time goes on, I’ll have a better idea of what I may want to host personally – possibly something like ‘Theater 29 Presents,’” Erickson said. She is confident about regularly scheduling Theater 29 with theater companies, collectives and playwrights. “A lot of companies are looking for space.”

The space at 29th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard was still getting some finishing touches, as of this writing.

“It’s been a slow process, but it’s finally ready,” Erickson said.

Get tickets for “Burnt Offering” and more information about Theater 29 at theater29denver.com.

Grant Helps Jeffco Schools Teach The Straight Dope On Cannabis Use

By Laurie Dunklee

We know that drug use among students is an issue in our state, especially where marijuana dispensaries are close to schools,” says Micah Munro, a student services coordinator with Jefferson County Public Schools.

Munro was hired in 2017 under a grant from the Colorado State Board of Education aimed at drug abuse prevention efforts. The $9 million grant from state recreational marijuana revenues was divided among school districts and Jefferson County was awarded $825,164 per year for three years, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year. Jeffco schools used the money to hire nine new school health professionals: six elementary school social-emotional learning specialists and three full-time nurses to serve middle- and high schools.

Fifteen schools in Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and Lakewood are implementing programs to help students and families make good decisions about marijuana use.

“In the elementary schools we’re all about upstream prevention,” said Munro, a licensed clinical social worker with a master’s degree in education. “In middle schools and high schools, we add drug intervention services.”

The individual schools were chosen based on their proximity and access to marijuana dispensaries, as well as their commitment to drug prevention programs. Edgewater Elementary School, at W. 24th Avenue and Depew Street, is the only elementary school to have its own dedicated social-emotional learning specialist (SEL). Edgewater has seven marijuana dispensaries within its 0.7-square-mile area, according to coloradopotshops.com. Nine other elementary schools in Wheat Ridge, Edgewater and Lakewood share one SEL per every two schools.

SEL specialists work with teachers from once a week to three days per week, as well as working with students. Social-emotional learning is the process of learning how to understand and manage emotions, as well as set positive goals, show empathy for others, maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

“It’s about self-awareness and self-management, which is critical to upstream drug-use prevention. It’s about learning the skills necessary to have a productive life,” said Munro.

The framework for SEL educators includes both classroom instruction and practical tools. Problem-solving is a big component.

“Research shows that good decisions require good skills in advocating for yourself,” Munro said. “In the elementary schools it’s mostly classroom learning. Starting in middle school we include practicing scenarios because drugs are in their world. We’re not just providing a lesson but practicing how to use our skills throughout the day.”

Denver Public Schools’ substance use prevention program (SUP) serves 28 schools including Lake Middle School in the Sloan’s Lake neighborhood. The social-emotional learning component teaches students protective life skills like coping, resilience, and dealing with stress and conflict.

“We practice skills in relationships and stressful situations; then the kids report back on how it went,” says Michel Holien, LCSW, supervisor of the program. “‘Just say no’ does not work. So we are not preachy, we just educate about the impact of substances and teach skills. What works best are the protective factors and relationships with safe adults.”

SUP also encourages alternatives to engaging in unhealthy behavior, like exercise, talking to a friend or reading a book. A calendar of free activities is on the website, denverrap.org.

“We increase their chances of making better choices, instead of self-medicating their stress,” said Holien.

Five Jeffco middle- and high schools – Lakewood and Wheat Ridge high schools, Jefferson Junior High/High School and Everitt Middle School – share the services of three full-time nurses. Creighton Middle School, though not under the grant, has an SEL who has been trained in drug intervention and prevention services. 

The nurses offer SEL support as well as working on school culture and climate.

“The nurses support after-school activities and facilitate academic support,” said Munro. “Problems can arise when kids sit around after school, so we help them get involved in something that makes them feel good about themselves and interacting with their peers.”

The nurses also help with intervention if a student reports that she or he is struggling with substance abuse, or if a student is referred or caught possessing drugs.

“The nurse can work with the student on setting goals and connecting with community resources,” Munro said.

If a student is ticketed for possession of drugs, the court may require that they attend a treatment program.

“The school nurse can help them, and their family, navigate the system. In some cases, if they take a class, the charge can come off their record, which is important to their future,” said Munro.

One Jeffco schools nurse, who prefers her name not be used, shared her experience.

“I had two students that were so nervous about going to court that they asked me to go with them for support. I was able to help them and their parents through the process and alleviate some anxiety. Just the fact that they wanted me there says a lot about the trust-building that is happening.”

Munro, a mother of two, said legalized marijuana is a big challenge for drug deterrence programs.

“My son asked me, ‘How can marijuana be bad if it’s legal?’ The answer for youths is marijuana’s effects on the developing brain.

“People don’t know that the effects of marijuana on youths is different than with adults,” she continued. “Studies show that marijuana use in the developing brain can affect learning and memory and can cause mental illness and psychosis. Marijuana strains are stronger than in the past. The part of the brain that’s looking for pleasure develops before the part that makes good decisions. The more we get this information out to parents, the better chance of them teaming with us.

“Also we help students and parents understand the law itself, like around driving. And we encourage students to think about the impacts on their future lives – about what happens to their chances for college, sports and employment. We help them build a skill set for responsible decision-making.”

How will the schools know the program is working?

“We’re collecting data on expulsions, academic achievement and other measures; our goal is use the data to drive future practices,” said Munro.

Munro hopes to see the program expand.

“There needs to be a comprehensive K-12 substance abuse program. I’d like to train all teachers to know what happens in a child’s brain, to recognize what a child might look like if they are using, and what they might be using.

“If I had a magic wand, I’d see to it that no one falls through the cracks.”

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