Guest opinion: Gypsum electeds explain decision to ask Mountain Rec to remove Pride flag at rec center

Steve Carver, Tom Edwards, Bill Baxter, Chris Huffman, Kathleen Brendza, Marisa Sato, Scott Green
Valley Voices
The Gypsum Recreation Center, which is operated by Mountain Recreation.
Vail Daily archive

GYPSUM — The primary thing that we believe all patrons should universally think when they go to the Gypsum Recreation Center is, “I feel welcome here and I had fun.”

It’s the reason the Gypsum Recreation Center was originally conceived and built. Town leadership, our citizens and our partner organization, Mountain Recreation, worked together to build and fund an inviting community center, open to all. Our goal was to provide an outlet for recreation, for fitness, for investing in one’s health, but most of all — to build community. Communities are not buildings and points on a map, they’re a diverse array of people from all walks of life who make up the richness of the human experience. The Gypsum Recreation Center was purpose-built to help facilitate the critical social connections and relationship bonds that make functional communities possible. And it’s been that. A universal hit. 

So, here are the principles Gypsum operates on:

What is our job at the town of Gypsum? Answer: To serve our community. Absolutely everyone in our community. Regardless of race, creed, color, religion, sex, gender, ability, political affiliation, etc. Always and forever. We do it because we love our citizens and have a duty to provide them with the best public facilities, public funds stewardship, and operations that we can.

So, how did it come to be that the Pride flag was displayed at the Gypsum Recreation Center and has now been taken down?

Some background is in order:

  1. What is the town’s relationship with Mountain Recreation? Answer: The town owns the building; Mountain Recreation operates the programming within.
  2. What was the original request from Mountain Recreation? Answer: As the operator, Mountain Recreation came to the town as the building owner and asked for permission to display the Pride flag at the facility. The request was denied.
  3. Why was the request denied? Because the Gypsum Recreation Center is a taxpayer-funded facility that should be devoid of political, ideological or religious symbols so that all can approach its services without any preconceived notions. We mean it when we say that the primary thing we believe all patrons should universally think when they go to the Gypsum Recreation Center is, “I feel welcome here and I had fun.”
  4. How did the flag come to be displayed in the first place then? Mountain Recreation displayed the flag in spite of not being granted permission to do so. At no point did anyone from Mountain Recreation inform the town staff or the Town Council that the flag was displayed in the town’s building.      
  5. How did the Town Council and town staff learn the flag was on display at the Gypsum Recreation Center? Answer: When they saw it on the front page of the Vail Daily.
  6. Why didn’t the town immediately address the issue and request that the flag be removed? Answer: We’re self-aware. We knew that this subject would immediately be a flashpoint in our hyperpartisan, community-destroying cultural moment. So, we stepped back from the subject to digest what had just happened and let it ride to test the validity of our policy position.
  7. The consequence of the past six months? Division, not unity. Hurt feelings, not friendships. Exclusion, not inclusiveness. And community building? Slowed down.

So, why address it at this point so many months later? Because we must get our beloved community center back to where it belongs: universally welcoming to all regardless of anyone’s politics or their immutable characteristics. The town is unreservedly in full support of the dignity and worth of Gypsum’s LGBTQIA+ citizens, and all citizens. Anything else would be regressive, backward and wrong.  

The best thing that can happen in our recreation center is for people from different walks of life, of different races, sexes, genders and political views, etc., to cross paths naturally, without any preconceptions, and to have the opportunity to connect across their differences and see each other’s common humanity.  

The Gypsum Town Council is Mayor Steve Carver, Mayor Pro Tem Tom Edwards and Council members Bill Baxter, Chris Huffman, Kathleen Brendza, Marisa Sato and Scott Green. This opinion piece is from

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