“I think we made life better for people in Golden. I think we made an impact here,”
says Brooklyn-born Elliot Brown. “When I moved to Golden (1979), I became aware of all of the development issues surrounding South Table Mountain. You can’t be out here too long before you realize there is a dichotomy between development and the outdoors, recreation and commercialization.”
Photo: Elliot Brown in his Golden home
Brown, a metallurgist, moved to Colorado after being offered a job by the National Institute of Standards and Technology as a staff scientist in metallurgy. “But it was the mountains that bought me out here,” he says. Brown later taught as a research professor at Colorado School of Mines from 1981 to 1986, then went into business for himself in 1986.
Both Elliot and wife Wanda Blackburn were founding members of Save the Mesas, after a quarry was proposed on Castle Rock. “Usually what galvanizes people is a crisis. That first quarry proposal galvanized me,” remembers Brown. “I’m living right here on the south slopes of South Table Mountain and they were talking about quarrying the Castle Rock. That’s gonna just screw this whole place up. There was some self-interest there, but I knew it was wrong for Golden.” Once the land was designated for open space, one of the would-be developer sold it’s acreage to Jefferson County Open Space.
In 1997 to 1998, Nike proposed a 5,000-employee office headquarters on top of the South Table Mountain. Likely because of opposition, they chose to go elsewhere. “Save the Mesas wasn’t really set up to do anything but oppose. We were not a very subtle group so a few of us got together and organized the non-profit Table Mountains Conservation Fund,” says Brown. “Our objective was to educate folks. We became a broker for the purchasing of small parcels of land on South Table. We were mostly an advocacy group more detail oriented then Save the Mesas.”
Some 400 acres on South Table Mountain are still owned by one of the prospective quarry builders, which wants to build a 13-acre solar array on the mountain. That would require an access road. “Roads would encourage development, a threat to the Open Space environment the community has worked so hard to establish,” says Brown. The Planning Dept. Committee voted against him. But Brown fears, “He’s going to come back.”
“In the short term, the next 20 years, people are going to have to be vigilant. The next generation of adults in this area is going to have to formulate organizations that remain vigilant, that show up at county meetings and look at agendas,” says Brown.
With retirement in the near future, Brown dismisses the thought of getting involved in activism with the Mesas again. He says, “I think it’s time for other people to step up if they value the quality of life in the town. But if something really went south, so to speak, up on South Table Mountain and nobody was going to be stepping up, yeah, hell yeah I’d be involved.”