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Dillon honors heroic former mayor

CHRISTINE McMANUSsummit daily news
Special to the DailyJohn Bailey (right) and his brother, "Tink" Bailey, sits on a part of Dillon that would have been submerged in water, had John not fought Denver Water to keep Dillon a town, and not a reservoir.
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DILLON – Those who have a special place in their heart for Dillon will gather today to honor the politician who saved his town from drowning under Denver Water’s reservoir 40 years ago.Council members, historians and residents past and present will unveil a bronze statue of former Dillon Mayor John Bailey at 2 p.m. below the Dillon Amphitheatre.

Through the 1950s the mayor, “battled with the all-powerful Denver Water Board and with persistence, insistence and all the diplomacy and arm-twisting he could manage until the water board finally capitulated,” said Jay Bauer, committee member. Denver Water began plotting Dillon Reservoir in 1913 and continued buying land in the valley where the Snake, Tenmile and Blue rivers converged. By the 1950s, the board’s plan was simple – bulldoze the tiny mountain town to make way for the water.Bailey refused the idea. For months he hiked the perimeter of the proposed reservoir. He found the spot where Dillon sits today and mapped out the town.

Bailey helped residents get money from Denver Water to fund the relocation of their homes out of the valley. When the reservoir began to fill, he resigned as mayor and established the Dillon Marina. He also helped open the county’s first ski resort, Arapahoe Basin.John Bailey Pocket Park Committee members, who worked four years to establish a small park in honor of Bailey, expect a crowd from near and far for the event.

“Everybody called him Uncle John,” said Nanci Campbell, who moved to Dillon in 1962. “He was very handsome. He moved very gracefully, and was very gracious. He had a great smile and a great deck for drinking beer.”Bailey also knew when it was time to work.After the pocket park dedication, people are invited to the Arapahoe Cafe on Lake Dillon Drive for the celebration.


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