A Little Good News! Updates On Fort Lyon and Union Station


A Little Good News!
With all the distressing, even alarming, world news today, it is a pleasure to report on two recent good news items in Colorado.

Fort-Lyon250x171So Far – So Good: Fort Lyon’s New Role

Headlined “Disputed Treatment Center Sends Alums Out Into The World”, a Denver Post article on August 20 celebrates the graduation of the first 11 formerly homeless people from the new residential treatment program at Fort Lyon.

As I reported in a previous Newsletter (March/April, 2014), “Fort Lyon was the jumping-off ground for Colonel Chivington’s brutal massacre at Sand Creek” and then had successive reincarnations as Veterans’ Hospital and Colorado State prison. In 2013, it embarked on a completely new mission, becoming a state-funded shelter, addiction treatment facility, and job-training center for the homeless.

After quite controversial legislation authorizing this program was passed, there was considerable speculation as to whether any of the homeless (especially from Denver, site of Colorado’s largest homeless population) would voluntarily get on a bus to go to a distant destination in one of the most rural areas of the state. Governor Hickenlooper was a major supporter of this new and positive role for Fort Lyon. The Denver Post, in a May 12,10 1913 editorial headlined OK, GOVERNOR HICKENLOOPER, FORT LYON IS YOURS NOW was frankly skeptical about the chances for the project. “If it fails, voters will know where to place the blame. And if it succeeds, we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.”

As of the end of November, 2013, 70 homeless people had taken up residence in the facility. They came from 15 counties, most from Denver, with 100 more on the waiting list. So this August 20, 2014 article is a welcome update on the lives of these new residents. Everyone is required to work, with a wide variety of tasks to choose from. Along with Bent County employees, the Post article reports, residents replaced the entire sewer system and are now working to restore a row of former officers’ quarters. One woman works in 41/2-acre garden she started.

Residents each get a personalized recovery plan. There is a walk-in clinic and they can attend on site Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous meetings. They can improve their job skills by taking courses at nearby Otero Junior college and Lamar Community College.

The article is a positive one, both about the program’s effects on the formerly homeless living there, and on the economic well-being of Bent County. But no effort on the Post’s part, that I have yet seen, to carry through on its promise that, if the project to rehabilitate many of the homeless from Front Range cities in this very rural – and historic – setting succeeds, “we will be the first to credit the governor for his commitment to the idea.” Perhaps it is too soon to declare the latest use of old Fort Lyon to be a success – but it certainly looks promising.

Denver - Union StationNew Incarnation of Union Station: Have You Seen it Yet?

A couple of weeks ago, I finally made it, with a good friend, to see the Union Station development. We traveled by the RTD train from Jefferson County’s “Taj Mahal” – my first experience of that fairly new transportation development. The whole experience was quite exhilarating.

The first pleasant surprise was to find the original Union Station happily fulfilling a dual role. The main waiting room area is still filling its original function. It is a public space, with comfortable furniture, a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, and interesting stores and places to eat in the spaces around the waiting area. All the upper floors now are rooms in the Crawford Hotel, named for Denver’s urban renewal pioneer, Dana Crawford.

We ate lunch at one of the cafes with outdoor tables and chairs, facing the large public open space in front of the Station entrance from downtown Denver. It has borrowed and enlarged Aspen’s idea of an installation of a rectangular series of fountains shooting up and falling randomly, inviting children to run through it – with a high possibility of getting soaking wet. This central feature is surrounded by pedestrian space. There were a few children daring the run, and strollers passing through the space. (I couldn’t help wondering just what will happen in the large fountain area in the winter months.)

We did not have enough time to explore the rest of the impressive Union Station redevelopment project, with its new buildings and pedestrian areas. I only got a rough idea of the location of the three transportation terminals on the site – for “real” trains, RTD trains, and RTD buses, so I intend to make another visit soon. But I saw enough to feel that this Union Station redevelopment project will become a new magnet for interesting activity – in a once-deteriorating segment of the central area of Denver. And I thought again, with gratitude, of former Governor John Evans who wouldn’t give up on his seemingly ridiculous vision of Denver becoming one of the great cities of the United States.


  1. Linda Kirkpatrick says:

    Your piece on Fort Lyon caused me to investigate more about it on the Internet! Thanks. And I look forward to making my first trip to the NEW Union Station next week with someone visiting from out of town. Linda

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