Our View: Trailer park owners must be taken to task
You want to talk about workforce housing in the Vail Valley? That conversation has to start with the Eagle River Village mobile home park in Edwards.
There are currently 381 mobile homes in the park along both sides of U.S. Highway 6 at the west end of Edwards. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 people live there — around 7% of the valley’s workforce.
And all those park residents who power our valley’s resort economy are stuck with some of the dirtiest drinking water in the state.
More than a half dozen residents, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation from ownership and management, have told the Vail Daily that the well water at the park is undrinkable. They say it smells, as well as tastes and looks bad. One woman said she had a neighbor who had to sell her trailer because her daughter would get blisters whenever she would bathe her.
This is not a new problem. The water-quality issues at the park date back at least 40 years, according to former residents.
In a valley as affluent as ours, how is this even possible?
We can argue until we’re blue in the face about how to solve the valley’s workforce housing crisis and where those developments should go. We can scream about the dwindling bighorn sheep herd in East Vail and the proposed Booth Heights development.
But first, let’s talk about fixing the damn water at Eagle River Village. It’s a stain on our community and speaks volumes about how we treat workers in this valley.
The solution seems so obvious: Ascentia, the Littleton, Colorado-based real estate holding company that owns the park and five others in Colorado, needs to come back to the negotiating table on a heavily-subsidized deal to connect the trailer park to the local water system.
According to those with knowledge of the framework of the deal, Ascentia was offered a deal to pay $500,000 upfront and $365,000 a year for 10 years in a low-interest loan to connect to the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority system. That investment, plus about $600,000 of Ascentia’s existing water rights, represented a little over half the overall $4.4 million cost of connecting to the system.
The rest of the nearly $2 million would have been covered by Eagle County dedicating $1.2 million in water rights from the Eagle Park Reservoir, a $500,000 impact investment from the Eagle County Community Foundation and $200,000 from the water authority foregoing an annual rate adjustment.
Financial analysts familiar with the proposed tie-in deal told the Vail Daily that Eagle River Village is Ascentia’s flagship property in its seven-state portfolio, grossing more than $5 million a year based off its land leases.
Add it all up, and it’s clear that the park is a cash cow. The park’s owners need to be held accountable for not providing the most basic of services, and the county needs to step in if Ascentia won’t deal.
Eagle County officials certainly have the power to act. A new state law gives counties the right to start drafting regulations at private parks that fail to meet public safety standards.
But this doesn’t just have to fall entirely to county officials to find a solution. What about the businesses whose workers live in the park? What about the various chambers of commerce in this valley? What about civic organizations?
State officials say the water at the trailer park meets minimum safety standards, per the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. But is the minimum standard acceptable in one of the richest counties in the state?
The answer is no. It’s time to find a permanent solution that provides drinkable water to such a huge percentage of our workforce, who also happen to be our friends and neighbors.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd, Special Projects Director Edward Stoner, Business Editor Scott Miller and Ad Director Holli Snyder.
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Are we seeing more bears because there are more bears on the valley floor, or because we’re all spending more time at home? It could be a bit of both.