Colorado Mountain College completes its Edwards campus deal 38 years early |

Colorado Mountain College completes its Edwards campus deal 38 years early

At a recent Eagle County School District board meeting, with Colorado Mountain College’s Edwards campus constructed and fully operational, the Partnership for Education, a collaboration with the county and Eagle County schools that enabled the campus to be built, was dissolved.
Colorado Mountain College |

It was supposed to take 50 years for Colorado Mountain College to build and pay for its Edwards campus.

It took a dozen.

And with that, the Partnership for Education that made CMC Edwards possible was dissolved, and the 16 acres was deeded to the college.

It ends a collaboration between Eagle County, the school district, Colorado Mountain College and the Edwards and Berry Creek metro districts … sort of.

“This isn’t the dissolution of a partnership. It’s the beginning of a new chapter of collaboration to serve the needs of Eagle County and beyond,” said Carrie Besnette Hauser, president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College.

Buying the Berry Creek Fifth

Once upon a time not so long ago, 11 governments had their fingers in the Berry Creek Fifth Filing, the land in Edwards where all those school buildings, Miller Ranch and Freedom Park are now located.

Republican Tom Stone, a county commissioner at the time, pulled together a deal for Eagle County to buy out everyone else and make the county the sole owner. The signing ceremony was on a bright winter morning where the horse stables used to be.

The school district, meanwhile, already owned its land, several acres to the east of the Fifth.

After the county became the sole owner of the Fifth, the county and school district master planned the two pieces together as one. Working together, they redivided the property, giving each entity parcels designed for their specific needs.

Battle Mountain High School, for example, is on land originally owned by Eagle County.

Initially, CMC had campuses in Eagle and Vail’s Cascade Village, and wasn’t part of the Berry Creek Fifth/school district land plan. But the Cascade campus was breathtakingly expensive and CMC made it clear they wanted to move.

Stone got support from then-Eagle County commissioner Democrat Michael Gallagher and school board president Tim McMichael. They got together with Vince Cook, from CMC, along with the Edwards and Berry Creek metro districts, and in 2001 put together the Partnership for Education.

CMC was made part of that master plan right before it was finalized.

Peter Bergh, a local architect and designer, created that CMC Edwards plan and did it for free. Bergh’s plan included dorms, which would make it a residential campus — an idea that still pops up.

“CMC needed to move out of Cascade Village and we were finishing up the development plan for Berry Creek,” Stone said. “The timing was just right for the whole deal to come together.”

The school district and county each donated eight acres for CMC’s 16-acre Edwards campus. CMC had 50 years to pay it off — somewhere in the neighborhood of $85,000. CMC also ave 50 years worth of free educational credits to the school district and the county.

CMC beat its 50 year deadline by 38 years.

Building buildings and community

The campus building in Edwards was finished in 2004. When the college quickly outgrew that, a 32,000 square foot addition was built in 2011.

Since 2004, more than 11,000 students and community members have taken classes at CMC in Edwards.

“We stand on the shoulders of all of you who have come before all of us,” Hauser said. “In my 20-plus years in higher education, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu was around for the whole thing.

“CMC just blew away all our expectations,” Treu told the school board. “We wanted to thank you for all your hard work. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve been involved with,” Treu said.

School board member Carrie Benway was on the original governing board of the partnership.

“CMC has exceeded our expectations both as to the timing and quality of the academic campus,” she said.

Partners and programs

At Battle Mountain High School, across the street from the college, a culinary teaching kitchen the college helped to fund is used by the high school during the day as part of Battle Mountain’s national championship ProStart program. At night, the college uses the space to teach its sustainable cuisine students.

An automotive program taught by CMC instructors and held at Eagle Valley High School currently has four dozen students enrolled, the most ever, said CMC’s Mike Trujillo, who oversees the program.

The Eagle County school district’s concurrent enrollment program with Colorado Mountain College is one of Colorado’s top 10 programs. High school students can earn college credit while completing their high school diplomas. In 2012-13, 20 percent of Eagle County’s high school students earned college credit in concurrent classes.

“I can’t think of anything that’s more inclusive, innovative and student-centered,” said Hauser of the college’s presence and involvement in Edwards and the broader valley. “With this partnership, that many more students will be able to enter and complete college.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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