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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.

Goldman notes that the company's land on South Table is a corporate asset and says "we have an obligation to our shareholders to maximize the benefits of those assets." However, he says Coors recognizes that a geographic landmark its own beer bottles helped establish as a symbol of the West is a different breed of asset than a shipment of aluminum cans or a trainload of hops. The company, he says, will make sure any office buildings put up on top of South Table are designed so that "visual impacts are minimized."

The Safeway store in Golden is an important gathering place for people in this tight-knit town of 15,000. Girl Scouts sell cookies at the front door, neighbors exchange gossip in the aisles, and town politics is a frequent topic of discussion. If you're furious with somebody in town, chances are you'll see them at Safeway.

Which is exactly what happened one day last month.
Two local activists were gathering signatures in the parking lot on a petition opposing the Nike project. Leo Bradley was walking out of the store when one of the petitioners called out to him.

"I said 'Hey, Mr. Bradley, do you want to sign our petition?'" recalls Doug Ohmans of Save the Mesas. "He said, 'Come here, you.'"

Ohmans walked over to meet his group's nemesis. "I held out my hand to shake hands, and he grabbed my hand in an iron grip," he says.

According to Ohmans, Bradley then informed him he'd just told Safeway management that if they didn't boot the petitioners out of the parking lot, he'd call off a deal to sell Safeway land he owns across the street.

"I told him that would make a good story for the Golden Transcript," says Ohmans, who claims that Bradley then lost his temper. "He told me, 'Shove it up your ass, you asshole," recalls Ohmans.

Bradley calls the story "trash" and says he doesn't want to comment on it since it "adds nothing to anything."

Regardless of what was said in the parking lot that day, the exchange reflects the level of anger in Golden over the Nike proposal. At a recent city council meeting, where dozens of people, including the members of a local Boy Scout troop, gathered to voice opposition to developing the mountain, residents described the mesa as part of Golden's identity. "The idea that this spectacular symbol of Golden could be spoiled forever is appalling," one woman told the council. "You seem to believe it's possible to compensate with money the permanent desecration of a landmark."

Opponents of bringing Nike to Golden gave the council a petition signed by 1,000 people--the same petition that led to the parking lot argument between Bradley and Ohmans.

Activists such as Parker believe public officials in Golden are badly out of touch with their constituents. They note that in 1995 Golden voters imposed a 1-percent-per-year limit on growth in housing permits after the city okayed several new subdivisions, and they think the city council has again underestimated the amount of opposition toward turning South Table Mountain into another Denver Tech Center. They say they won't give up until Coors and Bradley agree to sell their land for open space.

"It may be that open space and Leo Bradley and Coors can't come to terms on the worth of the property," says Parker. "If we have to have a stalemate for fifteen or twenty years, so be it.

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