Planned Community

I graduated from the University of Colorado almost 45 years ago with a degree in Journalism. I had taken a so-called Gap Year (or two) after my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska, but returned to school after a couple of years because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life living in Leadville, Colorado. I chose journalism because we had all watched Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward break the story about Watergate that led to Nixon’s resignation. Newspaper reporting seemed like an exciting career, full of intrigue and surreptitious meetings in dark corners of underground garages.

I was hired by the Douglas County News-Press, a four-day daily newspaper that covered Douglas County and located in Castle Rock. My pay was a whopping $600 a month. Can you imagine that? Furthermore, there was not a single opportunity for a meeting in an underground garage, surreptitious or not. Instead, I sat through Douglas County Planning Committee meetings and Castle Rock City Council meetings, chased tornadoes, and took pictures of neighborhood Fourth of July celebrations.

The biggest story around at that time in Douglas County was that an enormous ranch owned by Lawrence Phipps (who had made his fortune at Carnegie Steel) was sold to Colorado oil and gas magnate Marvin Davis, who planned on building a master planned community on this property that had once fed cattle.

The development of this community, which Phipps had called Highlands Ranch, was a big deal. A very big deal. A deal the size of which the Denver metro area had never developed before. It was too big a deal for this cub reporter to cover, but because of the small size of our staff (four reporters who also acted as photographers and sometimes helped put the newspaper to bed at night), I was called upon to attend some of the planning meetings.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the development (which would go on to become the City of Highlands Ranch) was water rights. Well, of course it was. Because water rights are a big thing in the dry western states. And Highlands Ranch’s proposal was to use aquifers as their primary water source. I didn’t then — and really don’t yet now — understand the concept of aquifers. It has to do, I believe, with taking water out of the rocky layer underground for purposes of drinking, watering golf courses, and making our lawns green and pretty.

The concern, as I recall, was that by taking water from rocks, the rest of the Denver metro area would begin to sink. The powers-that-be were able to get the necessary permits, and hence, Highlands Ranch was created.

As snobby young reporters, we all were very critical about this new master-planned community which now consists of some 100,000 people. Well, it’s now 100,002, because Wind Crest is located in Highlands Ranch. Who would have ever thought that I would some day live in Highlands Ranch? I think about it every time I drink a glass of water from my brand new faucet!

By the way, the Denver Metro Area is sinking as a result of those aquifers. Our Denver house sunk a good six inches during our 30 year residency.

Don’t look at me.