Legacy of Foresight founders much more than bricks and mortar
The newest additions to our downtown art reflect a legacy for Grand Junction. And it’s not the legacy I first wondered about as the statues celebrating a half century of a twisty, landscaped and revitalized Main Street were dedicated the week before last.
It’s no accident, Grand Junction-raised sculptor Ron Chapel said during the ceremony, that there are visages of Lee Schmidt, Joe Lacy and Dale Hollingsworth on both sides of the individual pillars on the north side of the street near Third and Main. That, he said, was because they were men of vision who weren’t hampered by a narrow focus, but instead looked all around them for inspiration.
Had I written about this latest project of the Legends Sculpture Committee last week, without the benefit of some additional time for reflection, I’d have been wondering if we could pull off a local project of the magnitude of Operation Foresight in this day and age. My presumptive answer would likely have been “no,” given the way the politics of such undertakings have evolved in recent years.
Hollingsworth, Schmidt, Lacy and other members of the Citizens Committee for Downtown Revitalization faced many of the same obstacles that surface today. There were the “aginners,” worried about the loss of storefront parking spaces. There were worries about taxes on downtown businesses and the impacts on those enterprises. There were those for whom anything but the “straight and narrow” was beyond comprehension.
I’m old enough to have known the “Legends” depicted on those pillars in the 200 block of Main Street and to have experienced the undertaking we now celebrate 50 successful years later.
My wife was the piccolo player in the Grand Junction High School marching band whose members had to learn to keep their lines straight while parading down a curved street.
My fellow hot rodders and I didn’t much like the planters that blocked the reflection of the bottom half of our shiny, polished rides as we cruised past Main Street windows.
Lee Schmidt was the father of a high school classmate. A piece of his hardware store history now hangs in the entryway to our home.
Joe Lacy’s grandkids and my daughter were high school friends. Moreover, it was obvious, when he and I talked occasionally in his later years, that his work in Grand Junction was a high point of a long and storied career.
Dale Hollingsworth, years after his leadership on Operation Foresight, would become a significant influence in my public life. “What would Dale do?” was a question I often asked myself as a member of the City Council.
It’s clear now, after some reflection, that the legacy that these men and the others responsible for Operation Foresight 50 years ago is something special.
It’s not the landscaping, curved streets, benches and fountains that dot our downtown. It’s not the refurbished storefronts, the off-street parking or the extension of the Foresight concept to Colorado Avenue and along Seventh Street. It’s not even the fact we have an active and vibrant downtown that can sometimes seem crowded late at night.
Those things alone would be enough of an accomplishment for them and for a community that took a chance, that colored outside the lines five decades ago when threatened by change and decline.
But the lasting legacy of Joe Lacy, Dale Hollingsworth, Lee Schmidt and other members of the citizens committee that spearheaded Operation Foresight is more than beauty and commerce, than bricks and mortar and twisty pavement.
It’s the creation of a community can-do spirit that still lives ... one that has brought us riverfront trails, a landmark revitalization of Suplizio Field and Stocker Stadium, a very different fairgrounds and an Avalon theater.
That spirit fostered a home-grown economic development effort that brought us back from “Black Sunday” and found us voting 3-1 to go into debt to finance the Riverside Parkway. Thinking a bit differently brought us the successes of the Mesa Land Trust and the collaborative efforts that established McInnis Canyons and Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Areas.
That’s not what I might have written a week ago. But, as I’ve said to several folks recently, I didn’t really value perspective much until I got some — and until I had some time to look beyond the obvious and reflect on what Operation Foresight really means a half century later.