Now entering Ram country

Jan 262005
Authors: Amy Resseguie

A newly installed sign on I-25 announces to passing motorists that they are "Now entering Ram country."

The Poudre River rock and flagstone sign, located on the east side of the interstate just south of the Harmony Road exit, is the brainchild of longtime Fort Collins resident and CSU alumnus Tim O'Hara.

O'Hara, who came to CSU as a student in 1978, said he has thought Fort Collins needed a declaration of Ram pride for years.

"It was time to get us on the map … and I wanted to beat CU," O'Hara said.

In September, O'Hara began the process of finding sponsors to fund the project of spredign Ram pride. While many local businesses and individual residents have made donations, O'Hara is still about $2,000 short of his total goal.

This sign is one of several efforts throughout the city and university to enhance school spirit and foster the relationship between the two entities.

Lately there has been some concern that the relationship between CSU students and the city has been strained due to disputes over rental issues and the August riots, said Courtney Stephens, director of Community Affairs for Associated Students of CSU.

"Our goal is for (the relationship) to be unifying … because there have been so many tensions lately," she said.

However, Stephens said the relationship is still positive, and that ASCSU is working with the City Manager's office to display CSU pride around town.

"The city is very caring and responsive to our issues," Stephens said. "They want everything to go smoothly with the students."

Currently, Stephens is working with the city to display directions to CSU throughout Fort Collins as well as lining the streets surrounding the main campus with banners that read, "Welcome to Fort Collins, Home of the Rams."

Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry said he is eager to work with CSU students to address issues like rental housing laws, increased TransFort funding and decisions made by the Alcohol Task Force.

He also said he believes the CSU/Fort Collins relationship is growing.

"The ties between the city and the (CSU) president's office are stronger than they've been in a decade … and we're continually forging a stronger relationship with the students," Atteberry said.

Stephens said ASCSU is also trying to inform and empower students so they do not feel directly attacked whenever the city may crack down on rental laws or nuisance citations. Rather, she said these efforts are geared toward community safety and most Fort Collins residents appreciate the CSU environment.

"The majority of people in Fort Collins know that they're in a college town, and they want to be here," she said.

O'Hara is one of those people. He said there are many local residents who, like himself, came to Fort Collins for school, fell in love with the area and stayed. He also said many residents have began to take the university's presence for granted.

"A lot of people think it's just a school," he said. "They forget that it's one of the largest employers in the area, and it's the reason Fort Collins has such a high level of education."

O'Hara's dream is to see the Fort Collins community rally around Ram athletics and fill Hughes Stadium and Moby Arena for every game. In order to achieve that, O'Hara said, there needs to be fan awareness throughout the region. In his view, his new sign is one small step in that process.

"People need to know that the Rams are here, and frankly, if you don't know who the Rams are, I don't want you looking at my sign," O'Hara said.

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