School expansion in Gypsum will force out mobile home park residents
GYPSUM — More than a dozen families are being evicted from a Gypsum mobile home park so Eagle County Schools can build athletic facilities and a parking lot at Eagle Valley High School.
It’s part of the school district’s $31.2 million renovation of the high school, and part of the school district’s $144 million voter-approved plan ($233 million with interest) to rebuild and renovate schools up and down the Vail Valley.
About half of the trailer park property will be parking spaces to accommodate Eagle Valley High School’s projected growth to 1,300 students. Some of that land will be a bus loop and secondary access to the school.
The other half will be tied to expansion of the school’s athletic complex, which will be tied to Gypsum’s expansion plans of its recreation and athletic complex, said Sandy Mutchler, the school district’s chief operating officer.
The school’s expansion will cover some of the existing parking.
Money well spent?
The school district paid Virginia resident Steven L. Peters $1.95 million for his trailer park. The parties went under contract on Feb. 3, and the property changed hands on May 15.
The residents learned on Feb. 16 about the pending sale when they received a notice from the school district.
They learned on May 17 that the deal had been closed two days before. May 17 was also the day they learned they had until Nov. 15 to leave and take their mobile homes with them.
The families told their stories, gathered around a picnic table in a Gypsum park on a stunning summer afternoon. Some have children in neighborhood schools; some attended local schools themselves.
They said that this past winter, a property manager from Dalco Realty walked through the park, knocking on their doors and telling them that the school district was buying the park from Peters, and that they would have to move.
Because they’ve known each other for years, they met in the middle of the park. They asked each other what they would do.
No one had an answer, they said. Many still don’t.
“We’ve cried a lot,” said Patricia Bryant.
Eva Meraz is studying nursing at Colorado Mountain College and works at Colorado Mountain Medical in Avon.
She lives with her parents and younger brothers. Her brothers walk to their neighborhood school. Eva and her family are on three waiting lists for an apartment. No one has called back yet, she said.
Eva said if she can’t live with her parents, she’s not sure she can continue college.
“It’s not an expensive college, but it costs more than I have,” she said.
Elio Fernandez’ son is working and also studying at CMC. Elio said he has a brother in Texas, and he may head that way. He doesn’t know if his son will come with him.
“We can’t save any money because we’re still paying rent here,” they said. “Even if we find somewhere to go, we’ll be paying two rents for a time, deposits, utilities.”
The humor gets blacker as the evening sun begins to sink, and the longer the discussion goes on.
“Maybe when Halloween rolls around we can trick-or-treat for money,” they say.
They all say they’re working, some multiple jobs and all said they are in the country legally.
Patricia Bryant says she has made her home in the Gypsum mobile home park for more than 40 years. She will not make 50.
How the school district is helping
The school district is not being completely heartless, they said.
The school district sent them a letter offering up to $10,000 for each titled mobile home:
• $4,000 for rent reimbursement.
• $4,000 for mobile home moving expenses.
• $2,000 for personal relocation expenses.
The school district also offered to help them prequalify for one of the new Red Table Apartments in Gypsum.
Rents for a two-bedroom apartment are expected to range from $1,050 to $1,500, plus $150 for a garage.
“I don’t make that on Social Security,” said Bryant, who added that her husband died in 2013.
The Red Table apartments are scheduled to be ready by November, but delays are always possible, said a letter from the school district to the residents.
So far, some are managing to move.
The school district said one family has moved its mobile home to another local park. Another purchased a home and vacated the property. Two other families have been hired by Eagle County Schools and applied for district housing.
One resident sold his trailer to the construction company to house its workers.
Another recently moved to Glenwood Springs and one is planning to purchase a recreational vehicle.
Under the Colorado Manufactured Home Community Act, the school district does not have to give residents any money, but must give residents six months to vacate.
The school district offered to try to sell residents’ mobile homes as public property, but doesn’t actually own the trailers, so it cannot, the school district said.
“We are trying to help make the transition as smooth as possible for displaced families,” said Kate Cocchiarella, school board president.
The school district has been talking to Peters about the property for years, well before voters approved the bond this past November, Cocchiarella said.
“The trailer park land is beneficial for the evolution of the (school) campus as a whole, and will enable us to provide the best facilities and experiences for our students,” Cocchiarella said.
Of those 15 mobile homes, Peters owns four and rents them. The rest of the families own theirs.
The school district acquired all four of Peters’ trailers when it bought the property, and will dispose of them.
The Neighborhood Navigators, a group of six passionate Latina women, is working to create equity and elevate the voices of Hispanic people in Eagle County in a very simple, yet revolutionary way. They take time to listen and be present in their community.