A person's hand holding a young plant

In 1975, several passionate citizens came together to create a retreat that would educate Littleton residents about matters in their community.

The hope was that citizens would come back to Littleton and disseminate what they had learned among their neighbors and friends in order to create a more educated community.

Today, the Littleton Community Retreat continues this work, gathering neighbors to learn together.

“The biggest purpose is to get people informed and educated and have them spread the word,” said Amy Conklin, former Littleton City Council member who helps lead the program.

Past retreats have covered themes including historical preservation, cultural arts, parks, education, immigration and more.

Conklin, along with former Littleton mayors Susan Thornton and Pat Cronenberger, is leading the charge to plan the group’s next local retreat in Littleton in September 2024.

A focus on sustainability

The event, which will take place on Sept. 13 and 14 next year, will be open to anyone in the community, Conklin said.

Its theme will be sustainability, highlighting current and planned practices and programs that support environmental and community sustainability.

“Climate change is real, and there are a lot of people who struggle with, how can they make a difference? What is it they can do to minimize the impacts of climate change, and maybe even just understand them?” Conklin, who pitched the theme, said. “I was motivated to help people who are interested in that topic to get more information that applied locally, here in Littleton, to them.”

The retreat leaders are hoping to gather feedback from community members to narrow down specific topics within the theme of sustainability.

A three-question survey to help dictate programming will be open until the end of the year and is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PMJXSV6.

Once the organizers learn what people are interested in focusing on, they will plan speakers for the event.

Specific topics could include sustainable building, open space and recreation, water use, waste stream reductions, air quality and cultural events.

Retreat format

On the first day of the retreat, attendees will learn from speakers, which could include local environmental experts and educators.

After absorbing this education, attendees will have the option to choose from several tours on the second day, Conklin said.

There will likely be a bike tour focused on water, during which visitors will travel along the South Platte River and visit South Platte Renew, Littleton’s wastewater renewal plant, Conklin said.

Other tours might focus on gardening and other sustainability topics, she added.

After the tours, Conklin said her team plans to gather the attendees for a community meal.

Aside from the meal, the retreat programming will likely be free of cost, Conklin said. The program is funded by money left over from previous programs, donations and a grant to the group.

Conklin said the retreat is important because the foundation of a strong democracy is a well-informed citizenry.

“The better-informed people are, the better decisions they make,” she said, adding that people are better at solving problems together than alone.

Those interested in learning more about the Littleton Community Retreat can visit https://www.littletoncommunityretreat.org/.

Littleton Leadership Academy

Born out of their work with the Littleton Community Retreat, Conklin, Thornton and Cronenberger started a separate program called the Littleton Leadership Academy in 2017.

Several former and current Littleton city council members attended the program before being elected to their positions. After participating in the program, Mayor Kyle Schlachter, who was not yet the mayor at the time, volunteered to help lead it in subsequent years.

After a brief hiatus during the pandemic, the program is returning in January through Arapahoe Community College.

The 10-month-long program welcomes individuals who are leaders or aspiring leaders from all sectors including corporate, nonprofit, government, education and entrepreneurs, according to its website.

It will “provide an opportunity for participants to explore and engage with civic leaders, organizations, systems and socioeconomic issues impacting the city,” the program website says.

Interested community members can learn more at https://www.arapahoe.edu/workforce-community-programs/littleton-leadership-academy.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected on Nov. 1 to correct the year that the Littleton Leadership Academy started.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Nov. 1 to clarify the timeline of Schlachter’s volunteering role with the academy.

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