May 26, 2006

Zip Code Confusion Sorted Out

By Caroline Welch
Flume Intern

PINE, Colo. — To be Pine or to be Pine Grove. That has been the question for almost a year.

In February 2006, the 80470 zip code changed back to Pine, its original identity, after an almost year-long discrepancy.

On July 8, 2004, residents of an eight-block area of Pine, Colo., petitioned to get their town’s name changed. It worked, but just a little too well.

Pine-Elk Creek Improvement Association members wanted an eight-block area of Pine to revert back to its historical name, Pine Grove, so they sent a petition to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names. The board approved the change on Oct. 15, 2004, as did the United States Postal Service.

Debera Johnson of PECIA said they thought their goals were accomplished without affecting other people.

“All the signs were in the right places, and people started using Pine Grove,” she said.

But what was supposed to affect a small area in Pine actually influenced an entire zip code of people.

Instead of re-naming just the eight-block area of Pine, the United States Postal Service designated the entire 80470 zip code as Pine Grove in March 2005.

The USPS altered its database to show all of 80470 as Pine Grove, not Pine, said Al DeSarro, spokesperson for the western region of the USPS.

“They wanted the historical section designated as Pine Grove,” DeSarro said. “But the post office thought they wanted postal designation as Pine Grove.”

Since then, residents of the 80470 area code had been receiving mail with both Pine and Pine Grove addresses, while at the same time trying to sort out the confusion.

Henry Davis, a resident of the Woodside development said he still gets some mail marked Pine Grove, including his Capitol One bill, but most have changed back to Pine.

“A few select (mailings) say Pine Grove, but most are Pine,” he said.

Davis said he was frustrated because he wasn’t notified of the change that took place almost a year ago.

“First of all, (the post office) never let us know they were doing this,” he said. “I thought, ‘this is strange. We’re not Pine Grove.’”

The problem was alleviated in February and the database has since shown the 80470 area code to be Pine, DeSarro said. However, Pine Grove residents have kept their historical town nomenclature.

“People in Pine Grove can still be written to using Pine Grove,” DeSarro said. “But the default is Pine.”

Larry Means, president of PECIA, said the change was a matter of historic and geographic accuracy, and he is glad the process went through.

“It’s been a can of worms, more than we ever expected,” Means said. “But it was worth it. We are back to our old historic name, Pine Grove.”

DeSarro said the situation was a misunderstanding, and that the USPS “wants what the community wants.”

Map changes are still pending, as they take up to three years to update, Means said, although some maps already show the name change.

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