May 18-21, 2005
Who knew that Colorado was so breathtakingly beautiful? Once again, the Alliance should have counted itself fortunate for having the opportunity to explore in detail the splendid natural and cultural offerings of its latest meeting place. But then again, that’s what distinguishes the Alliance: tremendous learning opportunities in stunning settings!
Without resorting to a blow by blow description of the itinerary, it is nonetheless important to touch on some of the highlights of the three day gathering. On Thursday, Tina offered some insight into the unique setting in which the Alliance found itself: namely Chautauqua Park on the edge of Boulder, one of but three remaining from a peak of 12,000 chautauquas in the 1920s. (For a more detailed perspective, please visit www.chautauqua.com). She provided an historical overview and followed that with a description of her firm’s recent study of the park, its values, and ultimately the direction it will now take.
A series of papers ensued, including a fascinating exploration of Colorado’s irrigation ditches. The often over-looked cultural landscape features have, since 1852, been vital to the development and growth of Colorado
The afternoon was taken up by a field trip to the east side of Boulder and the site of Valmont Butte. This significant cultural setting provided evidence of Native Americans, local settlers (cemetery), an early mining industry and today, an extremely active prairie dog community. Typical of such rich sites, the challenges to accommodate a firefighter training facility and a biosolids recycling center were many, including local organic farmers concerned about contamination. That said, the municipal planner, James Hewatt (and his predecessor Bodhy Hedgecock) appreciated the thoughts and suggestions that the ever-enthusiastic membership had to offer through a forum that followed the tour. This ’round table’ typified the efforts that the Alliance has made in the past by providing ‘pro bono’ expertise to a local community issue. Ultimately, the Alliance’s message was that there was already a well-developed cultural landscape process that could and should be followed in resolving some of the project’s inherent conflicts and opportunities.
Friday saw the delivery of a number of other inspired papers. It would, however, be improper not to acknowledge the contributions of this year’s scholarship award winners:
Friday afternoon provided a full program of activity, beginning with the Flagstaff Mountain Historic District and a presentation by Deon Wolfenberger of Colorado Preservation Inc. In spite of being high in the hills and with the hot sun beating down, the setting of the CCC-built Sunrise Amphitheatre (1935) was incredible to behold (a reminder of FDR’s 1930s New Deal program). This visit was then complemented by the next ‘port of call’, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a world famous venue nestled into the natural terrain 15 miles west of Denver. The ‘behind the scenes’ tour ensured that the Alliance truly understood the magnitude of this CCC project, and the magnificence of its setting.
Saturday opened with ‘tramps’ (hikes) out of Chautauqua Park of varying degrees of difficulty. All warmed up, the delegates boarded a bus southward to Denver and its ‘phoenix-like’ Lower Downtown Historic District. ‘LoDo’ as it is affectionately known, served for decades as the warehouse and trans-shipment area of Denver, eventually falling on hard times. Everett Shigeta, preservation architect, provided the background on this area and its recent revitalization. The group later set out to take in its sights/sites, and in particular those buildings’ contributing’ to the district.
The Alliance then moved into heretofore (critically) unexamined territory with a ’round table’ led by Hugh Miller on the topic of understanding and protecting Modernist landscapes. The session opened with a presentation by Ann Komara (University of Colorado at Denver) on the recent trials and tribulations concerning Skyline Park, Lawrence Halprin’s work from the early 1970s. In spite of opposition, those in favour of a major overhaul (read, virtual destruction) of the three block downtown site won out. The forum allowed the Alliance an opportunity to muse over what value lies in Modernist (master?) ‘pieces’ and what conservation professionals should be expected and obliged to do.
In conclusion, speaking from the perspective of a first time (but interested and enthusiastic) visitor, one can only marvel at the smooth delivery of the conference, while ensuring a satisfied audience. The bar has yet again been raised. And, with the prospect of an East Coast experience for the Alliance in June 2006 (Nova Scotia, Canada!), fond memories remain on the Front Range.
Tad Bowman, Bart Berger, Red Rocks Amphitheater: Behind the Scenes.
Marianne Cramer, What does Authenticity mean for Scenic Landscapes?
C. Dammann, Evolution of Landscape Form.
Carrie Gregory, Sustainability of the Western Salt Company.
Bodhy Hedgecock, James Hewatt, Valmont Buttes.
M. Holleran, Authenticity and the Urban Ditch.
Barnabas Kane, Disneyland.
Eric McDonald, Real Landscape Art: Authenticity as a Rhetorical Resource.
J. Rice-Jones, Whose Vision?: Monument Valley Park.
Michael Timmons, S. Crock, HALS Documentation of Orson B. Adams Farmstead.
Steve Watkins, The Chautauqua Way: Chautauqua Cultural Landscape Assessment.
Deon Wolfenberger, Flagstaff Amphitheater, Boulder Mountain Park.
John Zvonar, Garden of the Provinces.