Highlands Ranch celebrates 40 years

Historical society continues year-long educational program

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The unincorporated community of Highlands Ranch is celebrating 40 years of history in 2021.

Nancy Linsenbigler, of the Highlands Ranch Historical Society, said 40 years is an important milestone because Highlands Ranch has come a long way since the property was sold by Mission Viejo to Shea Homes in 1981. Over the last four decades, modern-day Highlands Ranch has grown to nearly 40,000 homes and 100,000 residents.

“People want to say there is no history here,” she said. “They say it's too new to celebrate history. But there is a lot to be proud of here. At the historical society, we looked at the big picture and then created a program to focus on smaller key points.”

To celebrate the 40th year, Linsenbigler said the historical society spent a lot of time to develop a year-long educational program aimed and at informing residents on how Highlands Ranch stays successful and operates.

Linsenbigler said each month there is a new theme with new speakers. Due to the pandemic, the presentations have been held virtually. Linsenbigler said the historical society hopes to return to in-person programming in August.

For those who missed the presentations, Linsenbigler said they were recorded and placed on the website, highlandsranchhistoricalsociety.org.

The upcoming July 19 presentation will examine the role governing bodies play in Highlands Ranch.

Highlands Ranch is in unincorporated Douglas County, which means a variety of issues are decided by the Douglas County commissioners. Highlands Ranch is in the Douglas County School District, which provides public education to local families.

At the July presentation, a representative from the Douglas County commissioners, school district, library and Northwest Douglas County Chamber of Commerce are slated to speak.

In the Aug. 16 presentation, Linsenbigler said the theme will be public safety, with speakers from the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and South Metro Fire Rescue expected to attend and provide a look at the past, update on the present and provide a view of the future.

The monthly presentations will continue through December. Check the historical society's website for updated schedules and themes.

Linsenbigler said while Highlands Ranch has remained unincorporated over the years, the historical society has focused on how successful the community has been through strategic planning with the community association and metro district, to taking care of local water rights through work with the Centennial Water District.

While Linsenbigler said a lot of the year's programs focus on what they call modern-day Highlands Ranch, some information is about what happened before 1981. Highlands Ranch has a much richer history dating back more than 100 years when the early settlers came to the area, Linsenbigler said.

From Dad Rufus 'Potato' Clark managing a farm on a 160-acre homestead on what is known today as the Highlands Ranch Golf Club, to why there is a mansion in the area, Linsenbigler said there is a lot to learn.

A presentation on the history of the Highlands Ranch Mansion will be Sept. 20.

To learn more about the Highlands Ranch history before and after 1981, visit the historical society's website at highlandsranchhistoricalsociety.org.

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