Lake Norman & Mooresville

Merry Christmas, Denver - wherever the town might be

The controversy surrounding the issue of where the boundaries of the town of Denver lie continues to boil to the surface.

In a manner of speaking, Denver has been experiencing an identity crisis.

The latest manifestation is tied to the decision by a small group of townsfolk, calling themselves the Denver Community Committee, to place 70 holiday banners on utility poles in the area referred to as "downtown Denver" or "old Denver."

Funding for the banners initially was to come from a $1,000 grant approved but subsequently rescinded by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners. Two questions were raised as to the validity of the grant: The first was whether the placing of Christmas banners in downtown Denver was a legitimate use of money designated for the benefit of county residents.

The second argument stemmed from the question of the placement of the banners in one small area of town. Why restrict the banners to "old" or "downtown" Denver? Historically, Denver was known as Dry Pond until the name was changed in 1877, in a bid to have a rail line pass through the town.

That effort was unsuccessful, but when the town was incorporated by the state legislature in 1877, the center of town was the area immediately surrounding N.C. 16 and Campground Road.

Denver's incorporated status was rescinded by the state legislature in 1971 because no local elections had been held. As a result, the town was declared "inactive." The lack of incorporation leaves the actual boundaries of the town undetermined.

That uncertainty about town boundaries is echoed by a member of the Denver Community Committee, Terry Brotherton.

"The committee's goal in placing the banners is to promote civic pride in maintaining a sense of old, historic Denver," said Brotherton. "We know where Denver starts, but we don't know where it stops."

One answer to that question is that the town boundaries may be considered as being encompassed by the postal ZIP code 28037, which would include such clearly defined neighborhoods as Westport and Triangle. Of course, some residents in those areas might not consider themselves residents of Denver, even though they share a common ZIP code.

The placement of Denver town signs is not much help in the matter. North Carolina state law requires town signs be placed at the boundaries of incorporated towns, but for unincorporated areas, the signs are placed at the center of where the state recognizes the township as existing - hence the location of the four Denver signs within a half-mile of Denver's acknowledged town center.

In the same vein, the sign on new highway N.C. 16 that reads "12 miles to Denver" is decidedly closer than that to the N.C. 73 exit, which many townsfolk consider the first Denver exit while driving north.

Regardless of when, where or how the issue of the geographical boundaries of Denver is resolved, the Denver Community Committee, established in February of this year, will continue to promote what it regards as the heart of historic Denver: the downtown area.

According to committee member Jerry Dellinger, the question members ask themselves is: "What can we do for our community in 2011?" In the meanwhile, they hope the banners, which have not been up before, will become an annual tradition.

Funded by donations totaling $12,000 from downtown businesses, the banners are designed at least in part to promote those businesses, as well as providing a service to the community at large. Placement of the banners will be completed by the Denver Fire Department prior to Thanksgiving, according to committee member Ray Cloninger.

While the question of town boundaries remains in limbo, one thing is clear: All residents of the greater Denver area can appreciate and enjoy the beautification of historic Denver's very own downtown, where the banners will greet everyone with an uplifting message: "Denver wishes you Season Greetings!"