Does Breckenridge need a sister? Mayor Eric Mamula says yes | SummitDaily.com

Does Breckenridge need a sister? Mayor Eric Mamula says yes

Mayor Eric Mamula, shown here in this file photo, has suggested that Breckenridge could benefit from having a sister city like many others in Colorado do.

The mayor of Breckenridge thinks the town could benefit from having a sibling, one from another country that knows how to be a good friend, enjoys cultural exchanges and wants to build bridges across broad distances.

Mayor Eric Mamula floated the idea of finding Breckenridge a sister city — or twin town as they're known in Europe — during last week's town council meeting. With an agreeable council, Breckenridge is now looking into what such an arrangement might look like, but town staff say it's too early into the process to offer anything definitive.

The idea itself is not unique, nor is it anything new, and apparently just like real-life siblings, you can have more than one. According to the Huffington Post, Chicago and Los Angeles led the nation in 2014 with more than two-dozen sister-city arrangements each.

Sister cities can take different shapes and forms, but their goal is largely universal and rather straightforward, seeking to improve communication and grow cultural understanding through open lines of communication, student and citizen interactions, gift exchanges and citizen-led diplomacy.

Already on the list of locations that recognize international sister cities are at least 20 others across Colorado, including Arvada, Aspen, Aurora, Brighton, Boulder, Broomfield, Canyon City, Colorado Springs, Denver, Estes Park, Evans, Fort Collins, Grand Junction, Greeley, Lakewood, Littleton, Longmont, Pueblo, Vail and Steamboat Springs.

For its part, Denver has 10 sister cities, ranging from Karmiel, Israel, to Potenza, Italy — and parks named in honor of each one.

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However, the Mile High City's arrangement with Brest, France, which dates back to 1948, makes it the second-oldest sister city in the U.S., according to Denver Sister Cities International, the nonprofit group that manages the program.

Like Aspen, Boulder has eight sister cities, including Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Jalapa, Nicaragua; Kisumu, Kenya; Lhasa, Tibet; Manté, Mexico; Nablus, Palestinian Territories; Yamagata, Japan and Yateras, Cuba.

Boulder's link to Dushanbe, the Central Asian nation's capital and largest city in the landlocked country, was born out of the Cold War and has survived the breakup of the Soviet Union, a civil war and the birth of a new nation, according to the Boulder-based program.

Now, Boulder is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Dushanbe Teahouse, a gift the city received from its sister city in the late 1980s and set up permanently in 1998.

For the anniversary, Boulder is also planning to explore its seven other sister cities too by offering their authentic cuisine every Monday at the teahouse from May 14 through July 7.

"I think it's an indication sister cities have been very successful in Boulder," said Rett Ertl, president of the Boulder Dushanbe Sister Cities board, who encouraged Breckenridge to continue with its efforts to find one of its own.

Even though Boulder did put some money into the Dashanbe Teahouse project and a reciprocal gift, Ertl said, cities entering into these arrangements really don't have to put much into them beyond what they want to, and as a result, "there's really no downside."

Colorado Springs also has a robust sister-city program with seven sister cities from Nuevo Casas Grandes, Mexico, to Bankstown, Australia. The program is managed by city liaison Donna Nelson, who has a lot of good things to say about it.

"It's been super positive," she said. "We love it."

According to Nelson, Colorado Springs' relationships have evolved to the point the local economy sees a nice boost every time sister-city delegations come to town, generally staying for about a week. Right now, she said, they're working to bring one in from Smolensk, Russia, next fall.

As city officials have made new connections so too have local businesses, Nelson added, explaining that the city's chamber of commerce has been working in conjunction with its international counterparts through the program on a number of different fronts.

Additionally, every year the Springs gets students from Fujiyoshida, Japan, through the sister-cities program, and when Japan got hit by a giant earthquake, residents in Colorado Springs came together to raise money for relief efforts, Nelson said.

A few years later, as Colorado was facing a terrible run with forest fires, the people of Fujiyoshida did the same for the Springs, said Nelson, who recalled one Japanese student who raised money outside a subway station.

Since becoming sister cities with Ancient Olympia, Greece, in 2014, the Springs has started up a new program that sends local high-schoolers to participate in the Olympic torch relay that begins there every other year. And those are just some of the Colorado Springs program's highlights, Nelson said.