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Activists seek to ban big box craze from Woodland Park

click to enlarge David Paraday of Citizens for Responsible Growth - CREIGHTON SMITH

With little more than three months left to organize their resistance against the world's largest corporation, Wal-Mart opponents in Woodland Park are furiously networking with hopes of pulling off a David-vs.-Goliath victory. In November they added another rock to their sling: the Internet.

James Wegner, a member of the newly formed Citizens for Responsible Growth, launched a Web site, stopwoodlandwalmart.org, hours after the first community meeting to discuss the proposed supercenter grocery and retail complex. At that meeting, 225 Wal-Mart opponents showed up at a local library. "We were over the fire limits," said David Paraday, spokesman for the group, "and we had the hallway stuffed to capacity." Since then, the group has held capacity-attendance meetings and packed the room at city council meetings.

The group chose the name Citizens for Responsible Growth because they didn't want to be known as solely Wal-Mart opponents, Paraday said. "We're trying to avoid any big-box retailer coming in."

The internet, he said, brings enormous possibilities for a small community group. "All you have to do is Google Wal-Mart and you have your choice of ways people have defeated Wal-Mart." As of this week, more than 1,000 visitors have accessed the group's Web site, which includes links to other anti-Wal-Mart Web sites -- such as sprawl-busters.com -- where other communities have successfully banded together to keep out the giant retailer.

The group has raised just over $5,000 so far, nowhere near the resources Wal-Mart wields. That means they must use as many allies as they can find, says Carla Martinez, a Denver chapter member of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national nonprofit that often organizes against Wal-Mart, including a successful campaign this year in north Denver.

"They have to get people in numbers," she said. "There are two powers: money and numbers ... many voices heard comes out against big money."

The matter is set to go before the city council in March.

-- Dan Wilcock

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