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Protecting local nonprofits should be a priority

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By Greg Dobbs

How would you like it if you lived in New Jersey — home of the Meadowlands, home of this year’s (sad, sad, sad) Super Bowl — only to find out that much of the publicity, not to mention much of the revenue from the big game, has been co-opted by the state of New York?

No, wait, here’s an even better one: How would you like it if you lived in Colorado — home of the Rocky Mountains — and found out that Russia’s President Putin was planning to hold the Olympics here, then put the money and the publicity in his pocket and call it Sochi?
OK, the parallels aren’t perfect, but the point is, that’s why a piece of our population didn’t like it last month when our elected Evergreen Park and Recreation District directors gave their thumbs-up to a company based in Florida to stage an arts fair this summer at Evergreen’s Buchanan Park, and call it “Evergreen Festival of the Arts.”
It wasn’t just an issue of opening the door to an out-of-state firm to make money for itself and for out-of-state artists on local taxpayer-owned land (and, by the way, to then take the money back out-of-state), it was an issue of a commercial for-profit arts fair diminishing the attendance, and thus the revenue, for the arts fairs of our own nonprofit arts organizations; Center for the Arts Evergreen every year stages its main fund-raiser, Summerfest, on the very same site, then later every summer there’s the Evergreen Artists Association’s Fine Arts Festival. Locals who flock to arts fairs from all over metro Denver couldn’t be blamed for being confused.
To their commendable credit, the district’s directors heard the complaints of their constituents and canceled the out-of-state event. So Evergreen’s own good fortune, and that of the artists for whom these fairs are each year’s best chance to eke out a living with their art (and also for those in the mountains who want local art in their lives), lives on. For now.
The district’s next, and bigger, task is to decide how in the future should we dole out the land we control? As EPRD Executive Director Scott Robson said, “There are 143 nonprofits in Evergreen, many of whom are asking to use EPRD land for their event. It’s not an easy problem to fix, unfortunately.”
But that should only make the board’s policy decision easier: If we have 143 nonprofits and there’s not even enough time on the calendar or space in the public’s parks to let all of them put on their annual events, surely there’s not enough time or space to let a for-profit company, especially one from out-of-state, use our public lands at all. Not this year, not next year, not at all.
This is not, after all, Lakewood or Longmont, or Littleton. Those are just Denver suburbs that blend into other Denver suburbs. Evergreen isn’t like that. And part of what makes Evergreen special — besides the views and the trails and the air and the ma-and-pa businesses and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) even the elk — are the nonprofits. Everything from senior care to hospice care to animal care to flower care, from education to athletics to environment, from the spirit of religion to the spirit of open space. And, of course, performance and philanthropy, and music and art.
Even if you don’t know it, we are richer when our nonprofits prosper. Surely the Park and Rec District knows it. And, looking to the future, the directors should decide accordingly.

Greg Dobbs is a 27-year Evergreen resident. In the 1990s and early 2000s, he was a regular Courier columnist.