It's hard not to feel a little sorry for the late John Bock, longtime owner of the magnificent Red Rock Canyon property, who died last week.

Famously irascible, Bock, 80, had spent the last 25 years of his life in sporadic negotiations with would-be purchasers of the land. His price (currently $15 million) was always about 50 percent above fair market value. For the last couple of years, the property was under contract to Zydeco, a New Mexico outfit whose principal, Richard Yates, was just as eccentric as Bock himself.

Well, Bock's dead, and with his option to buy expired, Yates is, at least for the time being, out of the picture. (He has since shifted his interest to the old Manitou spa building.)

As far as Red Rocks, an immense window of opportunity has been created for open-space advocates. Hopeful rumors abound: maybe a partnership involving Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Greater Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), the Trust for Public Lands, the El Pomar Foundation and thousands of small individual donors?

We do know that there are lots of dedicated, competent people who have been involved in the effort to preserve Red Rocks for several years. The moment has arrived; either it'll happen now, or it never will. If it does, we can congratulate ourselves for electing Richard Skorman, Ted Eastburn, Sallie Clark, Judy Noyes and Margaret Radford to Council, not to mention Manitou Mayor Marcy Morrison. I'm confident -- even manically so -- that they'll find a way to do this particular deal.

Those of us who care about the city's future, and who look at it as something more than a market location for Big-Box retailers, ought to be glad. Let's face it; if we chose City Council members in partisan elections, we'd be lookin' to the Grand Old Party to give us the likes of their leaders and assorted right-wing hacks. Can anyone say Mayor Wayne Williams? How about Vice Mayor Tom Huffman?

Under that kind of scenario, there's no way Red Rocks would be preserved for posterity; it'd be a gated enclave for the richies.

Meanwhile, the local establishment is all a-twitter with rumors that we may be selected as the headquarters of a major new bureaucracy, the Office of Homeland Security. If it happens, it'll be pretty ironic. After all, stripped of all the patriotic rhetoric, the OHS is nothing more than a domestic National Security Agency, keeping Big Brother's eye on all of us.

And to think that all of our feisty Libertarians used to (and still do) make a fuss about radar-generated traffic tickets!

And while we're considering life's little ironies, let's take a look at downtown. Not too many years ago, downtown was deader than a doornail; you could have rolled a bowling ball down Tejon Street on a Saturday night without hitting a thing -- no cars, no pedestrians, no nuthin'.

Thanks to a decade-long effort led by downtown merchants, we've seen an incredible revival. We've got wide sidewalks, fashionable boutiques, sidewalk cafs, public art and throngs of happy shoppers.

And remember all those dull old buildings that used to have boring old banks and hardware stores and department stores that boring old people used to go to? They're history -- what we've got now is PARTY TIME!

In case you hadn't noticed, the former Woolworth's is now a mega-club (Rum Bay/Bourbon Street), the former Colorado Springs National Bank is now a mega-club (Tequila's), the former Roger's Shoe Store is soon to be a Rat Packstyled steak-and-martini joint, and the former Art Hardware will become a sizable live music venue. Meanwhile, the old standbys like Phantom Canyon, the Ritz, Old Chicago, Mackenzie's, and Jose Muldoon's are always packed.

Somehow, I don't think that this is exactly what downtown's original boosters envisioned. They wanted a thriving, bustling, prosperous city center, not a Dionysian club/entertainment district. But it's OK by me; I'm glad to see a few thousand raucous 20-somethings partying their brains out on Tejon Street every weekend.

For one thing, it's delightfully contrary to the spirit and intent of the city's sainted founders, who decreed that Colorado Springs would be forever alcohol-free.

For another, it's fun to think that we're just repeating history, since the building that houses Rum Bay was originally the Colorado Springs Opera House. From diaphanously clad maidens performing in Aida to hotties gyrating on the bar at Wildcat's ...

A hundred and twenty years in the blink of an eye.

-- jhazlehurst@csindy.com


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