The flag at the little park below the dam was flown at half staff in honor of Ross Grimes, who died on July 17, 2013 at the age of 86. The park had been dedicated to him in 1992 for his 30 years of service to the Evergreen Metro District as well as his life of community service in Evergreen.
Ross Grimes was from Iowa, the youngest of three children. His father died when Ross was just five; and his mother remarried, settling in Des Moines where Ross worked on a big truck farm, picking vegetables and taking them into town to sell when he wasn’t attending military school. “He grew up ‘tough,’ ” says daughter Ann Dodson. “He was disciplined and served in the Navy but never saw action.”
After the Navy, he drove to Colorado and presented himself for admission to the University of Colorado, which agreed to accept him if he could find a place to live. In 1948 he received a degree in business from CU and moved to Evergreen to be near his sweetheart, Nancy Crain, whose family had moved here in 1947. His first job was working for The Woodpeckers, building quality homes.
Ross and Nancy married in 1950, the day after she turned 21. They purchased Evergreen Crafters from Nancy’s parents in 1951 and operated "Evergreen’s favorite gift store" until 2004. As young entrepreneurs in Evergreen during the 1950s and ‘60s, they created and operated The Hut, the Fun Shop and a children’s shoe store on Main Street, as well as the gift shop in the El Rancho restaurant. Nancy owned and did the buying for Golden Key Fashions and Village Casuals for many years.
Ross became an iconic figure in Evergreen because of his dedication to community service, mentored by people like Jack Rouse. “He was truly a public servant for Evergreen; he never had an agenda other than to make it better,” said son-in-law Ed Dodson.
At age 26 he was named president of the newly formed Evergreen Chamber of Commerce. During his tenure in the 1950s, he helped to found the Canyon Courier and bought a street sweeper to sweep Main Street and a bus to take employees to an alternate parking lot.
He played an important role in re-routing Highway 74 between Evergreen and Kittredge and helped with laying out the sewage system and utilities for Evergreen when those services were added.
He served as chairman of the board of the Evergreen Metropolitan Water and Sanitation District for 30 years. He developed a plan to consolidate seven local sanitation districts under Evergreen for operation, maintenance and management.
In the 1970s, on behalf of the Metro District, he negotiated an agreement with the City and County of Denver to take over the lake, the dam, and surrounding area, then forming an agreement with the Evergreen Park and Recreation District to manage the recreation area (trails, fishing, ice skating, boating).
Ross also served as Chairman of the El Rancho Water and Sanitation district for more than 30 years.
Concurrently, he volunteered for 30 years with the Evergreen Fire Protection District, including a time as its Chairman. He was Fire Chief from 1963 to 1970 and helped lead the department to a top rating in fire suppression.
Ross always thought his arrival in Evergreen was the perfect opportunity for a guy to get started. There was a lot to be done in the summer community that had fewer than 2000 year-round residents until the building boom started when the construction of I-70 made access easier. He attributed a lot of his successes to ‘the times.’
In 1959, Ross and Nancy purchased a building in Central City and operated the Famous Bonanza Gift Shop. When gaming was passed in Colorado in 1991, the Grimes family remodeled the building and established the Famous Bonanza Casino, then expanded in 1998 with the Easy Street Casino.
His dedication to stimulating business was well known in Central City where he chaired the Central City Business Improvement District from its inception in the late 1990s through the completion of the Central City Parkway. The 8.4-mile highway from I-70 to Central City opened in 2004.
On and off for 25 years or more, he worked on many committees and with CDOT to improve the 73/74 intersection in downtown Evergreen, a feat finally accomplished in about 2002.
Essentially all of Ross’s community service was considered “positive,” but in 2004 when Jefferson County installed an unsightly pedestrian bridge linking trails around the lake to Main Street, Ross organized a protest. The bridge was in place only a few weeks before being removed.
In 1974 Ross was named Person of the Year in Evergreen, and in 1990 he received the Community Service Award for stopping a vehicle that had been involved in a hit and run accident. The vehicle had hit a pedestrian on Main Street, trapping the individual beneath the wheels, but did not stop.
He was recognized for being a collaborator, someone who would listen to everyone’s views before making a decision, but never second-guessing. Ross was identified by the Sternbergs in their book, Evergreen Our Mountain Community, as being “outspoken, hardworking and not afraid to take on the responsibilities of leadership and the confrontation this involves.”
His death marks the end of an era.
Sources: Ross Grimes; Evergreen Our Mountain Community, Sternberg - 1987; Ann and Ed Dodson