I spent a few weeks this summer visiting Alaska, called by many “the last frontier.” It is an amazing state, populated by scenic venues and from what I could tell generally friendly people.
It is also an environmentally friendly and extremely clean state. Everywhere we stopped there were messages about recycling and taking care of and protecting the environment. And I didn’t see any trash anywhere, despite the crush of tourists that head to the state at this time of the year.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about my hometown of Woodland Park and Colorado these days in general. Residents and tourists alike now seem to have forgotten what made this part of the world so spectacular: a clean environment that everyone could enjoy.
These days you can hike or walk in just about any trail or neighborhood and come back with a sack full of trash, ranging from paper wrappers to cigarette butts. And the nearby forests and parks appear to be the dumping ground of choice for used appliances, worn tires and so on.
Locally, groups such as Focus on the Forest do an amazing job with limited resources to call attention to the trash problem and to actually help clean up the mess. Woodland Park holds an annual city-wide cleanup where volunteers canvas the community and make a temporary dent in what seems to me to be a growing problem.
But maybe we need to develop more of the Alaskan mindset. A clean environment is really a resource that we can’t afford to squander. And Alaska doesn’t have to be the last or only clean frontier.
I’m Rob Jewell and I live and write in Woodland Park, Colorado, the City Above the Clouds.
I've been fortunate. I worked for 29 years at BFGoodrich in Akron, Ohio. I started editing employee publications and ended as vice president of corporate communications. Then I started a public relations consulting company before becoming a full-time faculty member in the School of Journalism at Kent State University. I taught courses in writing, public relations and mass communication ethics. And I supervised a student-run public relations firm, called Flash Communications. During my tenure at Kent State I was honored to receive the university’s Outstanding Teaching Award.
During most of this time I've been a dedicated runner. OK, jogger, if you take speed into consideration. But while my times are not much to write about, I was and am committed. For almost 30 years I ran at least 1,000 miles each year. (Except for one year when I tore my calf muscle playing tennis. So much for tennis.)
Being on the road most mornings at 5 a.m. gave me some time to think. It also led to some amazing friendships that now span more than three decades.
And my longtime love affair with running helped me shape my first novel, Then We Ran, which is available wherever electronic books are sold.
And just so you don't think that all I did was work and run, I have other interests as well, many centering on family.
My wife, Mary, was a successful and highly regarded career teacher in the Akron public schools. She now devotes her time and energy to a host of social and athletic activities in Woodland Park.
My son, Brian, teaches at Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs where he is also the head soccer coach.
And my daughter, Jessica, has completed her doctorate at Kent State University where she is also an administrator with the Wick Poetry Center. I've done a lot of writing during my career -- but Jessica is the real writer in the family. I'll try not to make too many errors in this blog. I'm sure she'll be watching.
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