The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Greg Dobbs

Greg Dobbs: The first step to­ward bridg­ing the di­vide.

“Colorado Di­vide.” That used to mean to us pretty much the same thing as the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide, a high moun­tain ridge where the wa­ter on one side ul­ti­mately flows to the Pa­cific Ocean, the wa­ter on the other end­ing up in the Gulf of Mex­ico and the At­lantic Ocean.

Not any­more.

Now it is a di­vide de­fined not just by the rift of our Rocky Moun­tains but by the rift of our pop­u­lace. It is be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral Colorado. Be­tween the eco­nom­i­cally af­flu­ent sec­tions of our state where broad­band in­ter­net ac­cess is swift and abun­dant, and ne­glected cor­ners of Colorado where in­ter­net speeds are only barely bet­ter than dial-up. Be­tween cor­po­rate con­sol­i­da­tion and ma-and-pa farms, be­tween health care just min­utes away or half a day’s drive away, be­tween killer com­mutes on sub­ur­ban in­ter­states and killer curves on coun­try roads. It is a di­vide be­tween the cul­ture of younger Coloradans, who have re­lin­quished their ru­ral roots for re­mu­ner­a­tive re­wards, and older ones, who haven’t.

It is, as The Den­ver Post put it on Sun­day in the de­but of its se­ries fo­cus­ing on the Colorado Di­vide, about “the is­sues, values and at­ti­tudes that can leave ru­ral and ur­ban res­i­dents feel­ing they live in two Colorados.” It is, as Post jour­nal­ists Jen­nifer Brown and Kevin Simpson said, about a “fault line,” and the line is no more lu­cid than on the charts that pep­per their piece.

The first one is about “peak pop­u­la­tion years” for Colorado’s coun­ties, and this speaks vol­umes about the di­vide: in 23 of our 64 coun­ties, mainly along the en­tire eastern bor­der of the state and most of the south­ern bor­der, the pop­u­la­tion peaked be­fore 1950. They have been los­ing peo­ple ever since. No sur­prise if they’re not pros­per­ing. Or, for ur­ban Coloradans, if they’re not even on the radar.

Yet they should be, be­cause as one of­fi­cial from re­mote western Colorado said in the story, “Ru­ral Colorado is the pic­ture of what Colorado pro­motes it­self to be. We’re re­ally the cul­ture of Colorado.”

The next chart is about pol­i­tics, namely, the coun­ties’ pref­er­ences for pres­i­dent in

2016. The ma­jor­ity of Coloradans over­all voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton, but twothirds of the coun­ties — pretty much the whole eastern third of the state and, but for a few pock­ets, the western quar­ter — were in the Trump camp. Aside from a hand­ful of out­liers, it was only the Front Range — the cities run­ning north to south from Wy­oming to New Mex­ico — that voted for Clin­ton.

Is it any won­der that on im­pas­sioned is­sues in the state leg­is­la­ture, from trans­porta­tion to tax­a­tion to education to hos­pi­tal­iza­tion, there are fault lines be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral that of­ten re­tard re- form?

Then there’s a pie chart about the bud­get for the Colorado De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion. More than half its “new con­struc­tion” funds are spent in metro Den­ver. Ar­guably, this is jus­ti­fi­able since Den­ver has grown more than 20 per­cent in the past 15 years and fully half of Colorado’s 5.5 mil­lion peo­ple live in the metro area. But if you look at it through ru­ral eyes, there’s still far more as­phalt in the rest of the state and, there­fore, when they re­quire road­work, ru­ral res­i­dents reg­u­larly feel re­buffed.

These are just pieces of The Post’s pic­ture of the Colorado Di­vide. And while many are rev­e­la­tions to me, the most con­spic­u­ous come from quotes by two cit­i­zens in Colorado’s south­east­ern-most cor­ner, Baca County.

A woman who runs the county’s weekly news­pa­per re­sents Den­ver-based tele­vi­sion weather fore­cast­ers be­cause when they use those big maps, “they stand right in front of us. We don’t ex­ist. We get ig­nored like that.” A county com­mis­sioner speaks of a “dis­con­nect” be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral res­i­dents: “Maybe we don’t un­der­stand the life­style that they live. But we some­times feel we’re not ap­pre­ci­ated for what we do.”

The first step to­ward bridg­ing the Colorado Di­vide is ex­pos­ing the sen­ti­ments of each side to the other. Each has value, each has needs. The state can flour­ish if we rec­og­nize that, and fail if we don’t.

Greg Dobbs of Ever­green is an au­thor, pub­lic speaker, and for­mer for­eign correspondent for ABC News.

The Den­ver Post RJ San­gosti,

Tina Burian and her hus­band have owned Town Square Cab­ins and con­ve­nience store in Lake City for 10 years. In south­west­ern Colorado, many of the towns where the mines have closed are try­ing to make new economies out of tourism.

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