By Marcus Cocova
Though some longtime Colorado residents fear the impacts of newcomers to the state and others welcome their presence, both parties are ready to offer their thoughts on the recent changes to the state population.
Pueblo is a town an hour south of Colorado Springs. The town consists of a little more than 1 hundred thousand people, according to government census data.
Kristin Hoffmann is a born and raised Pueblo resident. She said Pueblo has often been thought of as a small town with not much to offer its residents. “I think most people have this conception about Pueblo, that it’s a small town, it’s blue collar, it’s mostly about working, and it doesn’t seem very vibrant,” said Hoffmann.
She graduated from high school in Pueblo in 2000. She moved to New York to pursue a career in theater. She said that historically many opt to move away from the former steel town of Pueblo to pursue greater ambitions.
“It felt like if you were an ambitious person, you graduated from high school, and you left,” said Hoffmann. She said that the town does not have the infrastructure necessary to support those who are artistically ambitious.
“There’s the art center in town, which is great. I took all my classes there when I was a kid, but as you start to get more serious about your career, it doesn’t really feel like there’s anything to support you,” said Hoffmann.
She said some choose to make Pueblo their home forever, but those who stay feel there is not much to do.
“Lots of people don’t leave, lots of people stay here forever, and they kind of feel frustrated by the town not having enough for them,” said Hoffmann.
She said that the town has not always been the most supportive of the arts, but that it would benefit if it could sustain the retention of its more creative residents.
“The second that there’s an opportunity to go actually pursue a career in the arts, or whatever big thing residents want to do, they have to go somewhere else, and that’s a real shame because there are so many creative people here,” said Hoffmann.
Hoffmann said she returned to Pueblo during the 2019 COVID pandemic to be closer to her family.
“I really think that the pandemic was horrifying and awful, but also really inspired people to think about their hometowns and to bring sensibilities back,” said Hoffmann.
She said it is this return that is breathing new life into Pueblo.
“I’ve met handfuls of people that have grown up here and lived here, and they are just coming back to bring what it is that they’ve learned from these different places around the world to the city that they love because it’s a special city,” said Hoffmann.
She now works at Analogue Books & Records, a book and record store that quadruples as a bar and coffee shop, as the store’s event director and store manager. The store is one of the few shops in Pueblo that keeps its neon signs lit and doors open to the public past 7:00 p.m. Hoffmann said Analogue is the kind of place you can find in any big city.
“I think it’s a great first date place. You can get a drink, come in share your likes and dislikes on literature, music, and pop culture. It’s really fun,” said Hoffmann.
She said she believes the store is a sign that, with the increased population, entertainment availability is also beginning to increase.
“It’s nice to see that there are things that you can actually point to that are changing,” said Hoffmann.
She said the store she works at is not the only symbol of change.
“I will say, after being gone for 20-something-years that the Arts Academy at county is very impressive. They’ve focused on how to cultivate things for the students there to actually be professionals in their field of art,” said Hoffmann.
She said that changes like these are drawing newcomers into the state.
“I meet people from other places, that have moved here, all the time, or people that are coming to see what the place is like before they buy their property here and move here,” said Hoffmann.
She said it is not just people from out of state, but even from across Colorado who are moving to Pueblo to start a new way of living.
“People from Denver are moving down here constantly. Flippers who come from California and New York are buying properties in Pueblo and flipping them over. It’s raising the cost of living here. Getting here now is smart,” said Hoffmann.
She said, with the way things are going, affordability is one of the final differences between Pueblo and a large, more lively city.
“Here you can get a five-bedroom, two-bath house for $250,000, and it isn’t the Metropolitan place that you’re wanting to be in but now is the time to move here,” said Hoffmann.
She said, despite the price increases, she hopes newcomers are welcomed. She said she thinks they will be by many people.
Gypsy and Greg Ames have been Colorado Springs residents since 1973. They live near the intersection of Platte Ave and Prospect St.
The two agree, like many Colorado Springs residents, that the first thing they noticed with the increased population was the increase in traffic.
“Traffic is just unreal,” said Gypsy.
Greg said he does not believe the city can support its current growth rate.
“I don’t think the resources are here,” said Greg.
The couple said it is not the newcomers they are disappointed with, but rather their local governance.
“The problem is not the people who are moving in. The problem is the lack of wisdom with the city council, which is providing for these people with things like housing, traffic control, water, and infrastructure for the city. That’s the problem, not the people themselves,” said Gypsy.
She said issues with the city council often cause a great deal of frustration throughout Colorado Springs. The couple said they are disappointed that they cannot believe they will see the city grow into a major metropolitan area.
“It’s too bad because I like big cities. The food had potential, the arts had potential, and music had potential, and, you know, some of that other great stuff that comes with a bigger city,” said Gypsy.
Half an hour west of Colorado Springs, tucked behind the mountain range that wraps around the Springs, sits Woodland Park.
The town consists of almost 8 thousand people, according to U.S. census data.
Cheryl Six was born in Colorado Springs but moved to Connecticut. She and her husband, Andrew Grenci, now own a home in Woodland Park. The two spend are spending the summer of 2022 fixing up the home they often rent to those traveling through Colorado.
They said the town’s culture, despite changes to the population, has remained the same over the years with small town events like fundraisers, live local music, and outdoor family movie nights. They said the town mostly consists of what they describe as “nice churchgoers.” The couple said they believe many people come to Woodland Park for the Woodland Park Bible College.
“There is a Bible college that was built about six or seven years ago, and that has attracted people from all over the country,” said Six.
Alongside the regulars, they also said they see a lot of people from outside of Woodland Park.
“There’s a lot of people from Texas who either come here for the summer or they’re escaping the heat, and you’ll see Texas license plates. Some people work in Colorado Springs, they call it The Springs, and they might just come up here to live and then work down there,” said Six.
The couple said they started to notice things changing due to a larger population when a Walmart was built.
“There was no Walmart. There was no hospital. So, you know, it’s not really a tourist town,” said Six when discussing how things have changed.
Six said she is now unsure what the people of Woodland Park did to survive before the Walmart was built.
“There’s a hardware store downtown that seems like a general store. They have everything. I assume that people either made the trip to Colorado Springs, or they just made do with a hardware store,” said Six.
She said when she and her husband were first furnishing their cabin that she felt guilty shopping at Walmart for supplies because of the revenue Walmart was taking away from local stores. She said although Walmart has been tough on the local economy it brings new life to the area.
“Walmart kind of revived the community,” said Six.