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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ode to Copperas Cove

Since this is my last full day in town, I might as well put some photos here of the town I first met 22 years ago. My son was "made" here in Texas.
It wasn't love at first sight after spending six months in Sierra Vista, AZ, but 22 years later the tide may have turned. Copperas Cove is a much more family-friendly town than Sierra Vista. Even though SV is about 10,000 people bigger, it suffers from a growing crime rate, a growing illegal Mexican population who have also brought in the drugs and gang fighting along from LA as well. Now the two gangs are fighting over turf to control the drug routes into the US from Mexico.
It took Sierra Vista to lose three teenagers last summer (all were alcohol-related accidents) for the city to finally agree to start building a skate park, something that has been here in Cove for the teens since at least when I was here 22 years ago. Sierra Vista teens, like many teens in Arizona, spend their time taking drugs, drinking and in general doing stupid stuff because they are bored. (Really, how can anyone be bored with all those hiking trails outside one's back door?!)

SV could learn a bit about Cove. Cove has a nice town center that will be revitalized in the next five years (more construciton is planned, to include a US Hwy 190 bypass on the east side of town, not too far from where I've lived here.

I've always believed that a town that has a river running through it is a happy, healthy town. I'm not sure why, but being near water calms people down. Cities and town without a river running through it have a higher crime rate and are in general more moody and less tolerant. Sierra Vista does not have a river running through it, just some trash-infested washes that flood over during winter rains and monsoon season.
Sierra Vista is really only 58 years old, formed because of the army. Its first businesses were in what is now referred to as Frytown, that old dilapidated section of town outside the Main Gate of
Fort Huachuca. Daisy Mae, an overpriced steakhouse in that part of town, once was a whorehouse for the soldiers on post. It's one of the few historical buildings in town. The rest of the city looks like a pre-fab concoction of cheaply-made 1950s fast-food joints converted into other businesses over time.
It wasn't until the mid 1990s that Sierra Vista decided to start focusing on retirees and young families moving to the area. Subdivisions sprang up along town promoting a beautiful, rural area with wide streets and bike trails. Some of the trails have been materialized, and parts of the city are flanked by paved hike/bike trails. One can bike around town in a 20-mile loop.
Copperas Cove, on the other hand, grew because of the Santa Fe railroad, like so many other small towns in Texas at the time. The army, Camp Hood, was chosen for the area after the communities of Copperas Cove and Killeen were already established. Cattle ranchers and post officials have a mutual free-grazing pact to provide for all areas of satisfaction.
Because of Cove's older history it has had more time to develop a personality. Sierra Vista hasn't reached that point yet. We have military, retired military, defense contractors vying for military dominance, and the rest of the town and its services on the other side wanting their share of the community. There is an unwritten war between the two which only worsens the quality of life for the children and other voiceless citizens of the town.
One thing that Sierra Vista has are the mountains and the scenery. In that respect, it has Copperas Cove easily beat. However, the growing problem with illegal immigrants has gotten out of hand.
More and more people continue to movie to Sierra Vista. The town has grown at a rate of 2% a year since 1990.

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