Breckenridge is four lanes away from a McDonald’s
Poor McDonald’s. As America’s largest restaurant chain, it just provides what the people want, especially parents who ply their kids with the Happy Meals that have helped make childhood obesity an epidemic in the United States, joining only AIDS and heart disease. As America’s favorite restaurant, McDonald’s is everyone’s poster child for the homogenization of America, a thing to be avoided in small towns striving to preserve a sense of community. There’s talk in Breckenridge of building a McDonald’s just north of town across the street, ironically, from a 7-Eleven, but conveniently enough for soccer moms, across the street from the recreation center and close to the grade school, so parents can grab the kids and dinner at the same time.Do I think a McDonald’s should be built? No, but I haven’t been to a McDonald’s in decades. I’m more of a Wendy’s man; I like the Frostys, and having seen “Super Size Me” at the Speakeasy Theatre, I see no reason to start driving to the McDonald’s in Silverthorne. Actually, the nearest McDonald’s is in Frisco, conveniently enough at the Wal-Mart, America’s largest retailer, and I know people who were thrilled when that restaurant opened because it shorted their drive time for a Big Mac and fries. And that’s why this issue is so confusing. Everyone claims to hate what McDonald’s is doing to America, and might do to Breckenridge, but when the Breckenridge McDonald’s opens, the parents of America’s porky kids will fatten Ronald McDonald’s wallet with no sense of irony. Will a McDonald’s happen? Absolutely, it’s what the town of Breckenridge has been asking for all along – perhaps not consciously or out loud. While there are small towns that view the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant as a sign that they’ve arrived, Breckenridge has resisted some restaurant chains (not Pizza Hut or Subway) as incompatible with the town’s character. And a McDonald’s wouldn’t be the first nonpizza fast-food chain in Breckenridge; a Wendy’s on Main and Adams was the first and last, giving up when it couldn’t come to terms with the town on a drive-though and hours of operation. But the town has always been open to the notion of a fast-food joint; a Burger King or similar on North Park Street has been a possibility for over a decade. No, the town, like the American people, is trying to have it both ways, recognizing that while town residents will publicly decry fast-food joints on the one hand, they’ll do it while wiping a dribble of Special Sauce off their collective chins with the other. What is going to force the town’s hand in this is its enthusiasm and support for widening Highway 9 to four lanes.The plan to widen Highway 9 revolves around the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) statistically archaic reasoning that if traffic volume continues to grow at the same rate that it has in the past. By 2020, Highway 9 from Frisco to Breckenridge will have the same volume of traffic as Interstate 25. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but only a small one. What CDOT, and the towns along four lane highways rarely seem to consider is what will happen along either side of the new four lane highway. What happened when CDOT widened Highway 6 south of Interstate 70? A Bed, Bath and Beyond, a Pier One, a Gart Sports, an Office Max, a Ruby Tuesdays – chains galore – sprang up. North of I-70 on Highway 9, as the same road is called on that side of the interstate, there’s the Target and, of course, the outlet stores.Breckenridge lost Summit County’s first Target to Silverthorne (the Breckenridge ‘visioning’ statement opines that a Target or a big box like it would be desirable), but Breckenridge will have every opportunity to get the second one. What do we think will happen from Tiger Road to Valley Brook when that’s four lanes? Nothing? Does anyone seriously think no development will happen on either side of Park Street after Highway 9 is rerouted off Main and the highway widened? The inevitable result will be buildup all the way in to Ski Hill Road, and not by the remaining independent retailers and restaurants in town, but by chains – homogenous chains with the money and, apparently, the products America wants. The town, by endorsing a four-lane highway, has made a McDonald’s inevitable. The only real question is, how many McDonald’s.Marc Carlisle writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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