It’s been a tough year in Arvada. On the heels of months of COVID-19 induced lockdowns, the city was plunged into mourning when a tragic shooting claimed the lives of Arvada Police Officer Gordon Beesley and “Good Samaritan” Johnny Hurley in June.
The months that followed saw the city grieve as community members came together for vigils, memorials and celebrations of life. At every turn, residents delivered on the promise of the phrase “Arvada Strong.” Still, the collective trauma of June 21 will likely be felt for years.
While the shooting certainly seems like the defining moment of Arvada’s 2021, the community has plenty to celebrate. Street murals and arts festivals enlivened Olde Town, two new city councilmembers were elected in November and a citizen action group stood their ground against tech-giant Amazon in an all-time David vs. Goliath tale.
In-person events resumed, from shows at the Arvada Center to Trick-or-Treat Street to holiday events like the Eggnog and Cider Competition. The Arvada Resiliency Taskforce came together to help the city’s small business community navigate the pandemic, and only a handful of shops had to close their doors.
Arvada’s resilience showed through at every turn. Residents stood up for what they believe in and made their voices heard, all while continuing to support one another’s endeavors.
The city said goodbye to the final remaining homestead of Ralston Crossing, converted Olde Town into a pedestrian mall and broke ground on the long-debated Residencies at Olde Town Station — a sign of the changes fulfilled and the changes to come.
All told, it’s been a rough 12 months. Hope was nearly restored when holiday festivities brought cheer to Olde Town this December, but a gale-force wind knocked down the city’s Christmas tree and took care of any stray flickers of optimism.
Take a look back at what the heck happened in Arvada this year:
Olde Town becomes pedestrian mall
A temporary measure put in place during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic became a semi-permanent feature of Olde Town Arvada, when parts of Olde Wadsworth Boulevard, Grant Place, Grandview Avenue and Webster Street were turned into a pedestrian mall.
New medians were implemented, road striping removed, crosswalks repaved, and outdoor seating areas created as part of the conversion effort, which began on June 30 and was completed on Oct. 15. The area was initially closed to vehicle traffic on June 12, 2020.
The semi-permanent pedestrian mall infrastructure will remain in place for five years, during which time the city team will conduct traffic surveys and gauge community response to the change before deciding whether to make it permanent.
“We are moving toward a revisioning of what the space can be and with that will come the opportunity to have some more outdoor space to have some more public art and to look at different activations over time,” Olde Town Business Improvement District Executive Director Joe Hengstler said.
The addition of public art became a reality when three muralists pained sprawling street murals on the closed streets in early Sept. in advance of the Jackalope Arts Festival, which was held on Sept. 18 and 19.
“I just think public art adds positivity to the community,” Chelsea Hart, one of the muralists said. “There are so many good aspects when creating public art and putting it into a community. I’m happy to be a part of that positive change. I hope it brightens someone’s day.”
Amazon warehouse proposal shot down by city council
After months of public discourse and a marathon seven-hour city council meeting, Amazon’s proposal to build a last-mile delivery warehouse on Indiana Street was voted down by a 5-2 city council vote on June 15.
Amazon’s proposal to build a 112,485 sq. ft. “last-mile” Delivery Station warehouse in Arvada — referred to as “Project Indiana” — involved annexing of unincorporated county land into the city, rezoning some of the land parcels and approval of the warehouse development plan.
The 36-acre site in question borders the Maple Valley neighborhood and the Ralston Creek trail, a habitat for bobcats, coyotes, deer, and other species of wildlife. A group called the Ralston Valley Coalition — formerly known as Protect Maple Valley Park — formed to oppose the development based on a number of concerns that the group has raised.
The council meeting began at 6 p.m. on June 14 and concluded at 2 a.m. on June 15. Council chambers were filled with audience members — many of whom were decked out in green Protect Maple Valley Park/Ralston Valley Coalition shirts and had come to voice their displeasure with Amazon’s proposal.
“Voters have entrusted you with a lot of power,” a resident of the Maple Valley Park neighborhood said. “Your decision will impact my home, my mind, my emotional well-being. Many others feel the same way I do. Please make the right decision.”
Mayor Marc Williams and former Mayor Pro-Tem Dot Miller were the two dissenting votes.
Olde Town Arvada shooting
In one of the most tragic events in Arvada’s history, three people were killed, including a veteran police officer and the suspected gunman, in a shooting in Olde Town Arvada on June 21.
Gunfire rang out from Olde Town Square, visitors took refuge — and, in some cases, shrapnel — in nearby shops and alleys as an apocalyptic pall came over the city’s historic district.
We would later find out the details of what happened; gunman Ronald Troyke, armed with an arsenal of firearms and a manifesto declaring his hatred for Arvada Police officers, shot veteran APD Officer Gordon Beesley fatally in the back before Johnny Hurley — a civilian shopping at the Army and Navy Surplus Store across the street, ran towards the gunfire and shot Troyke dead.
A months-long investigation would later reveal that APD Officer Kraig Brownlow mistook Hurley for Troyke and shot and killed him to prevent further casualties. Brownlow was cleared of wrongdoing by the District Attorney but is no longer with the police department.
Memorials, vigils and fundraisers for Beesley and Hurley came from all facets of the community, with “Arvada Strong” quickly becoming the mantra of residents grappling with the tragedy.
A large mural of Hurley was painted at the Rocky Mountain Commissary, his former workplace, and community members flocked to Beesley’s squad car outside of city hall for months, writing messages and leaving flowers for the fallen officer.
As the community came together to grieve the loss of two adored figures and process shared trauma, one thing became clear: Hurley and Beesley will never be forgotten by Arvadans.
Trash hauling service begins
Republic Services’ waste hauling trucks and trash cans adorned with the city of Arvada logo began dotting Arvada’s streets the week of July 5, as the city’s new single-hauler waste hauling program commenced service after months of public consternation.
About a year before Republic’s trucks hit the streets of Arvada, city council voted 4-3 to approve the single-hauler contract, which included an opt-out fee for those wishing to continue with their previous service provider. In 2019, council had decided to put the issue on the ballot, but later voted to take the measure off the ballot.
The backlash to council’s decision was swift and widespread; the four councilmembers who voted for the proposal faced (failed) recall attempts, and public comments at council meetings largely centered around trash hauling for months.
When the program finally rolled out in July, many residents spoke favorably of the service, while some reported confusion regarding what to do with their old cans and delays in receiving new carts.
“I’m quite disappointed that it’s all down to one service and greatly reducing the value of so many other services,” longtime Arvada resident June Ammerman said. “My answer to that dilemma was to let this trash service have this section of the city and give everybody a piece of the pie.”
Others had more positive views on the change.
“So far, so good,” Lynn Thompson said. “I received the correct sized cans a couple weeks ago. Tuesday was my first trash pickup, but it went fine! Put the can out, the truck came by and emptied it — kind of as expected!”
Election 2021: City Charter reviewed, Smith and Moorman elected to council
In the Nov. 2 municipal election, Lisa Smith and Randy Moorman were elected as first-time city councilmembers, replacing outgoing councilmembers Dot Miller and Nancy Ford. John Marriott was re-elected to a third term.
“It’s been a very humbling experience to see people from all backgrounds and affiliations come together to support me. It’s an honor to be elected and I hope to represent everyone fairly and equitably. I’m excited to do my best for Arvada,” Smith said on election night.
“I knocked doors since July and I worked really hard to reach out to voters and meet them and hear what their concerns and issues were,” Moorman said.
Arvadans approved three out of the four proposed changes to their city charter. Ballot Question’s 3D, 3E and 3F passed by wide margins.
The proposed charter changes were brought forth by the city’s charter review committee, which convenes every 10 years to determine if any changes to the city’s charter are prudent. The four ballot measures were recommended by the committee, which is made up of city team members and Arvada residents.
Measure 3D proposes increasing the amount of time city council has to fill an unanticipated vacancy – such as if a councilmember resigns or is elected to a higher office during their term – from 30 to 45 days.
Measures 3E and 3F would increase the amount of time citizens have to gather signatures for initiative petitions and referendum petitions, respectively, from 30 to 60 days.
The story is different for Measure 3C, which would have eliminated a charter provision that disallows an Arvada resident who is employed by another city to serve on city council.
“I’m not surprised by the ballot issue that failed. The other three, I fully expected them to pass. I don’t know why people feel so strongly about (3C). There’s a real strong feeling against it,” Mark McGoff, Arvada Charter Review Committee Chairperson said on election night.
Olde Town Christmas Tree felled by wind
A pessimist would call it a fitting end to a difficult year, an optimist might deem it a signal of new beginnings. Either way, high winds brought down the Christmas tree in Olde Town Square on Dec. 15, toppling a staple of the Olde Town landscape that stood in the square since 2006.
We’re sad about the tree going down. The Christmas tree is kind of a landmark here this time of year. Ultimately, this isn’t going to squash our holiday spirit,” Hengstler said.
Arvada Police Department Public Information Officer Dave Snelling said there hadn’t been any injuries due to the wind or falling tree, but “a lot of broken hearts.”