Colorado's Ruth Wright: A Woman to Match Our Mountains

Sports reporter Mike Sandrock's eye-opening column on the "highly anticipated Amazon HQ2" on land near Boulder's greenbelt made for a riveting read: "Mr. Bezos, Meet Ruth Wright and Oakleigh Thorne"

If Boulder’s green magnet: it’s mountains, greenbelt and outdoor lifestyle does attract Amazon’s new HQ2, Jeff Bezos may want to personally thank Ruth Wright and Oakleigh Thorne.. After all, it was Ruth Wright's winning strategy in preserving Boulder's open space greenbelt land and limiting the height of buildings in Boulder to 55 feet that preserved this natural heritage for all ages.

Ruth Wright has been called the "mother of Boulder's greenbelt." In 1965, as chair of Plan Boulder, she helped get voter approval for a sales tax that would be used to buy land for open space in and around Boulder.

Buoyed by her success, she then led a challenge against Boulder Tomorrow's plan to approve 14-story high-rise buildings as part of their plan to revitalize downtown Boulder and the Crossroads Shopping Center. To win this battle, she decided she needed a law degree. Married, with two young children, Ruth Wright enrolled in the CU Law School.

In one class, she was able to write a paper on policy related to building heights. Armed with her class report, she formed a group to recommend an amendment the City Charter that would restrict the height of buildings to 55 feet. "There was enormous, well-funded opposition to my proposition," Ruth says. However, her group — which included her law professor — gained enough signatures to be placed on the ballot. In 1971, the 55-foot height amendment became part of the City Charter. Ruth had done all the constitutional work and so, she says, "it was really solid."

Flush with success, Ruth decided to take her leadership skills to the state level. In this second interview, she described the challenges she faced as a minority leader of the Colorado State Legislature.

This article first appeared as a Letter to the Editor of the Boulder Daily Camera.

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