Three Mile Mobile Home Park residents step into empowerment
Glenwood’s Three Mile Mobile Home Park is going to be seeing some changes now that ownership by the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation (RFCDC) has been finalized.
Hattison Rensberry speaks with Sydney Schalit, Executive Director of the social-justice nonprofit MANAUS, and Brianna Cervantes, the on-site property manager with Common Good Management, about some upcoming improvements for the park.
Schalit: The park itself is located on an 11.3 acre parcel. Seven of those acres are unused, kind of wild land, and we are going to work with the Carbondale Rural Fire Protection District to come in and help us map out what fire mitigation might look like up that steep hillside. We also have some infrastructure needs: sewer, water.
We have a bridge that connects one side of the park to the other side, and it's safe by all accounts, but it's not very user-friendly in terms of pedestrians.
One thing we know is that a lot of the kiddos that live in the park kind of do this little sneak around on the creek, around a fence, to cut through so they don't have to go on the kind of scary road that is Three Mile, it's just a really narrow mountain road. And so one thing that I would imagine we might have feedback from parents, especially in the park, is figuring out a safer way for the kiddos to access the school and the main street.
Rensberry: Speaking of getting community feedback. Brianna, do you want to talk a little bit about some things that you've heard from residents and community members so far?
Cervantes: They have been sharing a lot, you know, like, feeling so positive about this process. I think that for them it's already really clear in their mind. They're really, really excited. I mean, all of them that I have already interacted with, they have shared, you know, how blessed they feel for this project and how fortunate they feel for living in Three Mile.
People that have been living in there for the past 30 years, people that have seen their kids born in this community and raised in this community, and now feeling that finally, you know, they have something that's securing their families. And I think that there's no other ways that by them, by saying that they feel really, really blessed for this.
Rensberry: Long term, the intention is for this park to be in the hands of the residents. What is the next step in that process?
Schalit: One of our goals is to work in partnership with the Aspen Valley Land Trust, to try to get a significant portion of that unused property off the hands of the park because for one thing, it's a big liability and for another, if we're able to do it in the way that AVLT and the CDC (Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation) have envisioned, there could be this opportunity for it to actually connect all the way to BLM and have a nice little conservation link. That process would buy down the purchase price for the residents pretty significantly.
A big part of the process is going to be the beginning stages of organizing in the vein of setting up the infrastructure within the community itself. So not the physical infrastructure, but the legal and community infrastructure that will then allow them to eventually write community rules, access their own insurance and eventually access loans and other financing options to then purchase it from us.
Cervantes: I think the first step, of course, is building relationships based on trust and just like helping them to figure it out, those plans and how to navigate those systems.
Rensberry: The majority of the people who live in the park are Spanish speakers, yes?
Rensberry: How important is it that you are providing bilingual tools and opportunities for people?
Cervantes: I think that having a person who's bilingual opened the door for people that in the past didn't feel comfortable sharing any opinion. So I think that is a huge asset to have a bilingual person because that is something that they can relate to. And the cultural aspect of it, like feeling comfortable to address some situations and just like speaking their own language without thinking like, 'I'm gonna be judged or they're going to think that my opinion, it's not worth it or criticize me for having these kind of thoughts.'
Because some of the things that they brought up to meetings have to do a lot with the way that they have been raised. You know, like things that they've in their backgrounds. So I feel like, so seeing a face that looks familiar to them and speaking the language of their heart, it's important for them to feel comfortable enough to increase their leadership and having a voice and feel that they have something to say and provide to the community.
I want to share one of the opinions that one of the residents the other day told me, and she was like, 'it feels so much better to have somebody who understands where we coming from.' And they even say, 'you know, in the past we never had this opportunity, like basically we're just paying rent and trying to live our lives, but now we feel like we've been heard and that we have an opinion. It counts and it matters.'
In fact, there's some residents that have already approached me and saying, 'you know, like, let's make sure that this park, it's going to look beautiful because in the future this is going to be ours.' And we want to make sure that now that we have the help of the Roaring Fork CDC (Community Development Corporation) to take in a way, you know, advantage of that so that we can be prepared and have everything in place for when we are going to transition to be the owners, and they feel so empowered now.
Rensberry: Is there anything else that you guys would like to share in regards to this project or in regards to feedback you've gotten?
Schalit: We'll have folks who ask if we're going to try to redevelop the park, and my response is always, 'that's not our choice.' If the residents wanted to redevelop, we would set them up with all the right experts and all the right people, but for right now, we are in the game of preserving community and community housing, and we would just encourage that folks have a lot less judgment around what that looks like.
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This storywas shared via Rocky Mountain Community Radio, a network of public media stations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico including Aspen Public Radio.