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Gambling towns turning into ‘tinsel’

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“The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Some years ago, I spontaneously took a trip to Las Vegas. I’ve little interest in gambling, and my betting skills are less than my interest, but the thought of basking in the sun around a pool after a harsh Rocky Mountain winter seemed the perfect elixir.

As is my wont, I made no reservations, relying on chance. And as chance would have it, there wasn’t a room to be found with several conventions in town. I chuckled sardonically, trying to imagine what it was like for Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, wondering if it were the Vegas of ancient Israel.

So after an already incredibly long day — 15 hours from Georgetown — I reversed course, headed back to Mesquite on the Arizona border and found a room. Within a few hours after awakening the next day, I drove into what is assuredly one of the most beautiful places on earth: Zion National Park. It was then I realized the real purpose of my trip was not to bask in the desert sun but to absorb the energies emanating from the glorious world nature’s god created.

While hiking among the red rocks, I reflected on my previous day’s experience in Vegas and recalled a life lesson a favorite high school teacher gave me when I groused about the school outing being not at an amusement park but at a city park. Instead of roller-coasters, I had been among trees.

“Tinsel,” Mr. Pelc said in reference to the amusement park.

One word. That’s all it took, and as a coming-to-age young man who had grown up running through woods playing cowboys and Indians, I got it.

When I read the Denver Post exposé about Black Hawk and Central City refusing to allow North Clear Creek to be restocked after the rest of us pay to clean the creek of toxic mining tailings, that’s what came to mind: tinsel.

Black Hawk and Central City have lost their mountain ethos. They’ve become tinsel. And tinsel means money-grubbing shallowness and indifference to humans and the natural world of which we’re part.

Black Vegas. Tinsel City.

The development will include an 18-hole golf course on 150 acres atop Miner’s Mesa, which will require more than 32 million gallons annually for irrigation.

Are they crazy?

Thirty-two million gallons is equivalent to 98 acre-feet (325,825 gallons equal 1 acre-foot of water, considered to be the amount of water two families of four, so eight people, consume annually).

Further, they’ll need to pump it uphill. From where will that energy come? Coal-fired plants, one supposes.

All that to satisfy gentrified city dudes unable to differentiate between a mountain and a molehill.

Green, Black Hawk and Central City are not. They intend to build 3,000 more hotel rooms. Assuming two to a room, that’s equivalent to two-thirds of Clear Creek’s population. I’m trying to imagine the amount of water needed to do the towels alone.

Further, what will they do when drought returns? If they think what’s happening to California cannot happen here, they’re delusional.

North Clear Creek will be restored, its toxicity removed. But if what the towns are proposing comes about, the toxicity will be removed from streambeds only to infect the communities.

No, they’re not crazy. They’re greedy. It makes one wonder which power brokers stand to immensely profit from this scheme.

A community that loses its link to the natural world in which it exists loses its soul. Emerson insightfully tells us, “In the woods, we return to reason and faith.”

My Vegas trek was synchronistic in that it reminded me of and reinforced the life lesson I learned five decades previous: It’s not in a tinsel one finds his/her soul, but in nature.

“I was impressed as if it were the prayer of the loon answered, and his god was angry with me.”

— Henry David Thoreau

Jerry Fabyanic is a Georgetown resident and regular columnist for the Clear Creek Courant. He also hosts Western Exposure on KGOAT radio 102.7 FM alternate Saturdays at 3 p.m. Respond to his comments by e-mailing westexp@aol.com.