Home grown right here in Evergreen, Mark Davidson is still investing in his community decades later.
Mark grew up WITH Evergreen, during the period of tremendous expansion of Evergreen that spanned the 70s, 80s and 90s, he spent summers working at Hiwan Golf Club at the height of its reputation as one of the finest golf courses in America. It was a time when big-name golf pros competed in Evergreen at the Colorado Open (1964-1991) and there couldn’t have been a more enviable summer job for a teenager.
Mark’s dad (Hal Davidson) had moved to Evergreen in 1946 when the year-round population was about 500 and made a name for himself as a Realtor and insurance agent. Mark switched from the golf course to a real estate course in the late 1970s, working for his dad selling land and homes during the summer months and making good money for a college kid. Keeping abreast of changing regulations in both industries proved challenging for such a small office in a community that was growing at a rate of 10,000 people per decade. Large, well established, Denver-based real estate companies such as Moore & Company and Van Schaack moved into the market, creating big offices, hiring dozens of agents and bringing with them advertising dollars. It was tough to compete. In the 1980s the family phased out of real estate and decided to focus on insurance.
For years Davidson Insurance had an enviable location – at the foot of the dam, at the only stoplight in Evergreen. Their main advertising was on the roof of the little building people gazed into while waiting for the light to change. But more than the light changed with the turn of the millennium. A more effective flow of traffic through downtown had long been a necessity, and change took place – change that meant razing the little building at the intersection.
Davidson Insurance relocated to the impressive log condominiums at Hilltop, midway between “old Evergreen” and the newer developments that had built up around Bergen Park during the period of tremendous growth. Mark continues to operate Davidson Insurance, now that his parents have retired.
The Fire Department
Being a member of the fire department in the early days of Evergreen was more than a necessity for fighting fires; it was almost a status symbol. Much of small-town life in rural Evergreen revolved around the activities of the fire department. Young men felt like gods as they sped by young women on Main Street, riding a hook and ladder rushing to a fire. Being part of the fire department was a heady place to be for a young man. It was not uncommon for Mark to respond to 500 to 600 fire calls each year in his younger days.
Mark joined the fire department in 1979 and "absolutely loved it." As a young bachelor, he lived with two other young firefighters not more than a mile from the fire station. “We all slept with bunker pants rolled down over boots at the foot of the bed,” he recalled, enabling them to be in service within 30 seconds if the tone went off.
“In Dad’s era – the 50s and 60s – many firefighters in different lines of work locked their doors to go to a fire.” The public understood when businesses were locked up during normal business hours. "I'm not sure they'd be so understanding today."
Mark quickly became a lieutenant and then a captain, then assistant chief. He even served as interim chief for 6-8 months while the board re-evaluated whether it wanted another paid chief or a paid administrator and a volunteer chief.
It was during his leadership years with the fire department that the district absorbed the all-volunteer Evergreen Ambulance Service. Mark, who’d been on the rescue squad of the fire department, remembered “a lot of auto accidents in those days,” attributing a 90 percent decline in accidents to improved roads and tougher DUI laws.
He also served on the dive team before it phased out due to infrequent occasions to use the extensive training . “It’s hard to do everything,” Mark says. “The number of incidents didn’t warrant the time and hours put into it.” The department now trains more for creek work and surface ice rescues. Being a member of the dive team stirs up memories of his least favorite incident with the fire department – diving into a cold, 12-foot-deep reservoir in the middle of the night to recover the body of a drowned man. Unable to see a thing in the darkness, divers had to feel their way underwater; and Mark was the one who physically “ran into” the dead man.
In 1989 he was involved in the formation of the Jeffco Incident Management Team, a group of agencies with a common interest in responding to large-scale fires and other disasters. He served on that team for 15+ years. The Hi Meadows wildland fire in 2000 was the first major event where the team was acknowledged and used properly. “It was the first time I’d seen that kind of acreage burn … loss of property,” Mark said. Mark’s involvement with the fire department dominated his life for 29 years.
The big one
Most impressionable fire during his 29 years? The Evergreen Hotel fire in January of 1997, which Mark describes as “a career fire.” “Firefighters always talk about ‘the big one,’” he says. When he greeted other firefighters arriving on the scene that night with flames looking to be 60 feet over the top of the Little Bear, he said, “Boys, welcome to the big one.”
The Evergreen Hotel was being renovated by owners Judy and Ken Jeronimus, who also operated the adjacent, world-famous Little Bear on Main Street. The hotel had had a storied past of being a drug store, a place for church meetings, as well as a brothel in the early days of Evergreen; it was to become a coffee shop, a venue for entertainment, and offices.
A destructive event on Main Street brought back memories of the legendary fire of November 10, 1926 when flames devastated 11 structures along Main Street, including 4 residences. There was no fire department then; it took a bucket brigade hauling water from Bear Creek to contain the fire.
Volunteers with the fire department did exactly what they’d trained to do. John Bakas had been working on his own vehicle at Station One (just south of the dam) and was the first to arrive with a truck, strategically positioning it in such a way as to permit other arriving firefighters to access the business district efficiently. Although their initial goal was to contain the fire to one side of the street, they managed to contain the structure fire to a single building.
"There's not a fire department in the entire country that could have done a better job," he maintains.
In 2006 when he retired from fire duty, the fire department honored Mark by dedicating Station #3 in Marshdale to him.
Other community involvement
At age 13 Mark began volunteering with Alpine Rescue Team, which had been performing mountainous search-and-rescue operations since 1959. By age 18 he’d become trained as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), giving him an edge when he joined the fire department because of his experience with emergency services.
Since 1987 he’s served on the special district board of the Evergreen Metropolitan District, responsible for providing water and wastewater treatment service to the area. “I was part of the youth movement,” he explains, “when forward-thinking older folks on the board pushed to get younger people involved.” It was Ross Grimes who’d asked him to consider a board position.
In September 2012 Mark was the recipient of one of 5 ‘Distinguished Director’ awards for the Special District Association of Colorado.
In the 1990s he served five years on the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce board, chairing the board one of those years.
More recently, he’s served on the board for Forest Heights Lodge, an internationally renowned residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys located on Forest Hill. Mark was chairman of the board for two years.
Since 1995 Mark has been on the board for Evergreen National Bank – Evergreen's only community bank – where all board members live and work in the community and all banking decisions are made locally. ENB continues its reputation for being represented in every major civic organization by staff members and still sponsors community events, unlike many of the bigger banks in Evergreen. Mark could well serve as the poster child, as he's been there, done that and still keeps on doing, all for the sake of community.