The death of Ridgway resident Brian Peters on July 29 constitutes a great loss and creates a void for this community that will not be readily filled. Those who knew him and who respected his no-nonsense style comprehend this void and need not be reminded of his legacy. Many others who have arrived in recent years to Ridgway and are trying to obtain a foothold here might wish to know that Brian helped set a new direction in Ridgway and the county involving quality of life issues that I fear could slip away without more like him participating in the process.
Brian was “one of the great examples of participatory democracy, and his involvement in community affairs was large and well-known,” as his friend John Hollrah characterized him last week, but Brian defied categorization.
Brian probed deeply into government affairs, asked those pesky questions to officials and citizens alike, and articulated a well-reasoned position.
I met Brian and his wife Priscilla after arriving here in 1992. It was the beginning of a new era for the community signified by a contentious proposal that would have located a City Market on the east side of Highway 550, something that many felt at the time would have transformed forever the small-town nature of the community. Brian successfully led a petition drive with other citizens against the City Market proposal.
A few months later, Brian and Priscilla hosted the pre-formation meetings of the Ridgway-Ouray Community Council at their bookstore in the old bank building on Clinton or in the Sherbino Theatre before anyone knew what to make of the organization. Brian served as a counterpoint to the development interests who also participated in public service, and whose rights he honored and considered, but who sometimes were armed with agendas that clashed with the best interests of the community at large.
Who would have imagined in those years that someone who was a building contractor would align himself, and risk losing business, perhaps for causes that were more cynically construed back in those early years as “anti-growth?”
Even after his service on the town council and planning commission, Brian remained very active by monitoring the town government, attending public meetings and offering insightful direction about controversial proposals and ordinance amendments in Ridgway with a view towards emphasizing local economic viability and property rights but without forgetting its citizens who are struggling to make a living here.
Recent arrivals, with baby strollers in the lead, might benefit from following Brian’s example of staying tuned in to what’s going on and participating at the earliest opportunity. Brian felt that was a requirement of every citizen in maintaining the balance of power, and that it reaps rewards both personally and for the greater good. This is, I believe, Brian’s real legacy.
Editor’s Note: A memorial celebration of Peters’s life will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16 at noon in Ridgway Town Park and community center. Please bring a potluck dish.