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By Bud Starker

Happy birthday Wheat Ridge! In case you haven’t heard, the city is celebrating its incorporation as a city this year. The official date August of 1969; however plans include recognizing this milestone throughout 2019. There are a lot of fun events planned so stay tuned to Facebook, the Connections newsletter, NextDoor and the city website. The history timeline is already available on the website and there is a Facebook group with historic photos and information at CelebrateWR50. Watch for the displays of the city’s history at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center and additional activities at the Historic Park on 44th Avenue.

This special year has already kicked off with the Passport to Wheat Ridge. This is a discount book with more than 35 businesses represented. The proceeds from the sale of the book, which is $25, go to help renovate the first Wheat Ridge Police Department patrol car, Unit 1. In addition to discount offers from local businesses, the Passport also includes major events in the city throughout the year so make sure to pick one up as a reminder of what’s happening in 2019. Passports can be purchased online and picked up at City Hall.

The WRPD also held a history panel earlier this month that is available on YouTube. “A Look Back with Those Who Served”, provided a unique perspective on the City’s history from former Chiefs and officers from the WRPD and Wheat Ridge Fire Department.

The WRPD is also wearing a commemorative badge this year featuring the original design from badges worn in 1969. Chief Brennan planned to make it official with a pinning ceremony and proclamation at the council meeting on Monday, Jan. 14.

In addition to all the celebrations, there are a number of projects that will move forward this year:

Work to update the Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy created in 2005 began in 2018 and will continue in 2019. The council-appointed Steering Committee convened small group “kitchen table” meetings to engage the public in peer-to-peer community conversations. In the first round of engagement, these meetings asked participants, "What would you change and what would you keep the same in Wheat Ridge?" In the second round of engagement, the Steering Committee hosted additional small group meetings to obtain public input on two hypothetical scenarios as a means to understanding what the community values about Wheat Ridge and how it weighs costs and benefits of public decision making. In the third round of engagement, a public open house was held at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center and input gathered from the open house will inform next steps as the Committee moves from identifying issues to developing possible actions and recommendations. This coming year will include a public survey, likely in February 2019.

The Wheat Ridge Sustainability Committee has undergone a name change. Sustainable Wheat Ridge is a volunteer-led committee supporting efforts to improve community conditions focusing on six areas of environmental sustainability: green building and energy efficiency, renewable energy, transportation, solid waste and recycling, water, and communication and engagement. City council has also allocated $7,500 in 2019 for Sustainable Wheat Ridge to implement Xcel Energy’s Home Energy Audits for Wheat Ridge residents as part of their Xcel Partners in Energy (PiE) program. PiE works with municipalities to design energy goals for communities and provide tools and guidance for achieving those goals. PiE will also be focusing on reducing energy usage for businesses as well as municipal facilities.

Construction has begun in the Applewood Shopping Center at the former Walmart site. The new stores filling the 120,000-square-foot space include Ulta, Home Goods, Hobby Lobby and Sierra Trading Post. The new Hacienda Colorado Restaurant is under construction on the lot just north of the Chili’s Restaurant. To enhance the views of the center, the city, using Xcel Energy’s one-percent fund, will place the utility lines underground.

New hook ramps off I-70 will begin construction to provide better access to the Clear Creek Crossing project, Applewood Shopping Center and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Planning continues for improvements to Wadsworth Boulevard from I-70 to 35th Avenue. Improvements include a wider sidewalk, a bike path, and landscaping continuous-flow intersections (CFIs), which will also be installed at 38th and 44th and Wadsworth. CFIs better manage traffic flow on busy thoroughfares.

Design is underway for bike lanes on Garrison from West 44th Avenue north to the Wheat Ridge city limit to improve access to the Clear Creek Trail. Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2019 on this joint project with Jefferson County and the City of Arvada.

This is just the start of a very special birthday for the City of Wheat Ridge. Hope you can join us as we celebrate 50 years of history!

Contact Wheat Ridge Mayor Bud Starker at bstarker@ci.wheatridge.co.us or 303-235-2800.