There was a this patch of open space in Westminster, between where we lived 10 years ago and Stanley Lake. I have no idea if it’s still there, but it’s one of the reasons we left the Denver area and moved to Maine.
I used to ride my bike along a path through there. I never really stopped because there was not much to it. It was a dirt patch, all owned by the city and kept as open space. Just some scrubby trees, creek beds and lots of Prairie Dogs. They’d whistle to each other as I pedaled past, popping out of their dens briefly. That’s why my Dad always called them Whistle Pigs.
I saw hawks and the occasional coyote there, too.
That little patch was bordered on either side by homes, city streets and retail developments. Not exactly virgin wilderness.
But it was, I was told, prime develop-able space and that was to be its fate. The City Council was in talks to sell that patch to a developer for a corner shoppette.
But right around the corner, there was a ghost shoppette just a few years old. It was home to a vacant Media Play (remember Media Play?) and a bunch of smaller shops, all equally empty. They’d all gone out of business about the same time and no other retail outlets were interested in moving in.
It was too much for me. You could stand on the asphalt corner of the vacant Media Play lot and throw a pop bottle into the open space patch, if you had a good arm.
I could not figure why someone would sacrifice the last bit of wild in that neighborhood for another sterile, utilitarian retail destination. It was enough to overcome my last bit of resistance and bail on Colorado for good. I don’t even know how it turned out, if they paved over the prairie dogs or ever found someone to rent Media Play’s old home.
I thought of that patch the other day, driving past a Turner Street retail development. When we moved here, it was vacant land, full of whatever passes for Whistle Pigs in Maine. Now it’s developed, but it’s never been fully occupied.
There’s a gym nearby, a restaurant and some offices. But much of it is empty, just like that old Media Play on Wadsworth Boulevard.
The neighbors say they have to open the door every once in a while to let out any wildlife that slipped under the plywood front door and got trapped.
So, at least there’s still a way to see urban wildlife.