If the Shoe Fits

Critics say the fix is in for Nike in Golden. But it won't be easy for the company to leave its imprint on a local landmark.

Leo Bradley came to own a big piece of South Table Mountain by virtue of his marriage to Patricia Quaintance, a descendant of one of Golden's original pioneer families. Before the turn of the century, the Quaintances bought up much of the land just beyond the mesa's signature Castle Rock, which looms over downtown Golden. In the late nineteenth century, Adolph Coors, founder of the famous brewery, went on his own shopping spree. Coors bought most of the mesa's northern slope all the way up to Castle Rock itself, which the brewery used as a symbol on its bottles for decades.

The Coors and Quaintance families have been in Golden so long that they could be considered part of a homegrown dynasty. "My grandson is the sixth generation of that family here in Golden," says a proud Bradley.

The Quaintance family has been involved in development schemes on South Table since the early twentieth century, and they've worked closely with their friends in the Coors family for more than eighty years. Patricia Quaintance's father was an attorney who worked for the Coorses, and the two families have cooperated on joint business ventures.

In 1913 the Quaintance family opened a funicular railway that ran from Golden to the top of South Table, where they built a dance hall and restaurant on top of Castle Rock. Adolph Coors himself gave the Quaintances permission to run the rail line over his property on the northwest side of the mountain, just across from the brewery. A trip to the dance hall became a popular outing for residents, and at one point, donkey rides were also offered up the mesa. The railway tracks were torn up for scrap iron during World War I, and the dance hall burned down in 1927.

South Table became a more ominous landmark during the 1920s, when the Ku Klux Klan had widespread influence in Colorado. Local Klansmen held rallies on top of the mountain and burned huge crosses at the tip of Castle Rock. The promontory has also been the site of murder. In 1943 Golden was riveted by a sensational trial as sixteen-year-old William Eugene Wymer was convicted of murdering two younger boys by pushing them off the side of Castle Rock.

After World War II, metro Denver began a decades-long boom that brought once-distant suburbs to the edge of Golden. But while subdivisions spread all around South Table, the mesa itself remained largely untouched.

Residents have fought for years to keep it that way. Ever since Jefferson County voters approved their pioneering open-space program in the 1970s, acquisition of South Table Mountain has been near the top of the county's wish list. But the county has never been able to persuade Bradley and Coors to sell the land for open space, and residents have watched in frustration as development schemes have come and gone.

Now some wonder if the county is working both sides of the fence. Both Bradley and Coors say they were approached about possibly locating the Nike facility on South Table by the Jefferson Economic Council, an economic-development group that receives the majority of its funding--$327,000 last year--from the county.

"The JEC came to us and said a company was looking for a spectacular site," says Bradley. At first the group wouldn't tell him which company was interested, but Bradley says he soon discovered it was Nike and told the JEC that he and Coors would be interested in selling their land to the sportswear company.

The state's Office of Business Development has also played a big role in trying to interest Nike in Colorado, last year adding South Table Mountain to its list of possible sites for the company. The involvement of taxpayer-funded groups in marketing a site long coveted for open space infuriates many of those opposed to development on the mesa.

"I think the JEC screwed up on this," says Parker. "I think they misled Nike to think this would be okay with the people who live here."

Holli Baumunk, acting president of the JEC, was not available for comment. While Baumunk has stopped talking to the press, the JEC did find the time to hire a Golden-based public-relations firm, Sharon Kent Freeman Inc.; a spokesman for the firm claims that the JEC isn't actively recruiting Nike but simply provided a list of possible sites to the company.

Having two government-supported entities working at cross purposes is not that unusual, says Ray Printz, the longtime director of the Jefferson County open-space program who retired in 1996. "When you're trying to satisfy diverse needs of a community, quite often they come in direct conflict with each other," he says.

Printz says his agency approached Bradley about acquiring land on South Table repeatedly, last talking to him in 1994. "He never wanted to consider selling that property to us," says Printz. "We offered to negotiate for the land, and he declined."

Bradley claims he hasn't ruled out selling the land for open space but makes it clear he'd prefer to see it developed. "The west side of town is short of class-A office developments," he says. "We have to take care of economic development if we're going to continue to survive."

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