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T-wreck: a legacy from politicians past

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By Doug Bell

“Solid stone is just sand and water, baby.

Sand and water, and a million years gone by.”

— Beth Nielsen Chapman

HIGH ABOVE THE STEGOSAURUS LOT — On a chilly and snowy Sunday, no birds of prey are visible from the raptor observation area along the trail, and no hikers or bikers pass by. To the south, clouds close in on the Rooney Valley, and throughout the gray landscape a sense of foreboding looms.

This has always been among my favorite hikes, and a climb to the ridge top not long after surgery in 2015 marked the first time I truly believed my nerves and muscles would acclimate to a prosthetic hip and give me back my life. It’s undeniable that progress can be a miraculous thing, whether in medicine or technology or the human condition.

But progress represents an entirely different thing today to the Rooney Valley and Dinosaur Ridge, where future development casts a dark shadow on a crucial link to our planet’s distant past.

Without a doubt, the best part of the hike down the Hogback to Dinosaur Ridge is the payoff at the end: Gazing at the tracks of the lumbering creatures that once prowled the shore of an ancient sea, perfectly preserved in the sandstone. It’s possible, for just a moment, to look out across millions of years to the Mesozoic era, and to forget an unfortunate epoch that came much later — the McCasky era.

Jeffco’s county commissioners on Tuesday supported a rezoning to pave the way for hotels, car washes and gas stations just a stone’s throw from the most significant dinosaur-track site in the country — a move that actually could prevent even more undesirable options possible under the current zoning, which the developers might still retain.

But if you’re among the thousands of outraged Jeffco residents looking for someone to blame, there’s little point in vilifying our current county commissioners, who are merely left holding the bag from a time when back-room deals and cozy relationships between developers and commissioners characterized Jefferson County government.

A quick glance back at our newspapers from those days turns up the following headlines:

• “Commissioners delay repayment for loan linked to campaign contributors”

• “Jeffco officials kept secret that Rooney Valley open-space buy was related to settling lawsuit by developers”

• “McCasky violated ethics standards in vote to boost funding for future employer”

If you’d like to have a look at some of those journalistic fossils, just take a field trip to our website, where I’ve continued to exhibit my own dinosaur-like tendencies by letting readers bypass the pay wall on those stories. What you will find is a chronicle of the cleverly concealed deals that helped set the stage for what’s about to happen at Dinosaur Ridge, a scenic and historic landscape imperiled by former officials who could see only dollar signs on a horizon that once offered stunning views of the present and the past — and of a very different future that could have been secured for the Rooney Valley.

Doug Bell is the editor of the Courier.