Felix Jimenez loves the little piece of paradise that he and his neighbors have preserved on the southern edge of Glenwood Springs and he wants it to remain.
Jimenez has been a 35-year resident of the 20-unit 3-Mile Mobile Home Park, located just off the narrow gorge of Midland Avenue next to The Hideout RV Park.
The wooded setting, with 3 Mile Creek flowing down the middle, was a playground and home for his own children and now for his grandchildren.
Over the years he and his family secured three leased lots on the park and built mobile homes for the extended Jimenez family.
“The kids just love to play up in the woods along the irrigation ditch, and there’s a nice little trail up there,” Jimenez said, pointing to the steep ridge that rises south of the park.
“It’s cool how the trees kind of cover it, and sometimes it’s just a nice little walk.” It was a great place for her to grow up.”
Jimenez is now 65 years old and still operates a small property management business including maintaining the mobile home park for the owners who are heirs to the Ben Krueger family. Jimenez is hoping to retire happily, right where all those memories live.
By working with the new Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation – a branch of the Carbondale-based non-profit for social justice Manaus – this dream now has a good chance of becoming a reality.
Aspen Journalism first reported, on Nov. 30, the group contracted the RV park for $2.4 million with the idea of eventually transferring ownership of the land to local RV owners.
The vendors are the adult children of the late Ben Krueger, a longtime Vail Valley resident who has owned the park since the early 1980’s. The sale is scheduled to close on April 30, with a timeframe of three to five years to sell it to residents at a reduced price.
Krueger had already held discussions with Jimenez and other residents to find a solution. Sons Bern, John and Karl Krueger and daughter Celynn are now on board to try and make a difference. said John Krueger in the Aspen Journalism article that it would be difficult without the support of an organization like Manaus.
Manaus Executive Director Sydney Schalit said the “interventions” or “bridges” model could serve as a pilot for a possible purchase/resale of some of the other 55 RV parks that exist between Parachute and Aspen.
Many of these parks, ranging in size from fewer than 20 to nearly 300 lots, face the potential for future redevelopment if they are sold to non-government private equity firms, or significant rent increases if the parks are sold to be maintained.
A new state law gives RV park owners the first benefits when a park comes on the market, but free market pressures can make that impossible, Shalit said.
“Whenever a park comes up for sale, maybe residents can pull it off, which is incredible when it happens,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean they won’t have really stiff competition in the open market, which of course they face.
“Our thought was why not try to use our charitable capacity and go to the owners of these parks before they go on the market and ask them to sell them to us at a fair value. Then we can control who we sell it to.”
Manaus is also working with the Aspen Valley Land Trust to convert the seven acres of vacant hillside land into a conservation area, which could help pay back the sale price of the parking lots to residents.
Jimenez said park residents are still learning the details of the proposal and some of the potential regulatory hurdles.
“Many neighbors are very upset about this, but some are still suspicious,” he said. “We all want to be very clear about what the steps are and what it will look like in terms of price. So we’re still in the process of figuring that out.”
But the prospect of being able to secure a decent lease for their parking lots in the meantime, and eventually owning the land beneath their mobile homes, is attractive, Jimenez said.
“I know some big entities come in and look at these parks and gobble them up,” he said. “So I wanted to try to prevent that.”
Mobile home parks in the Roaring Fork Valley and along the Colorado River Valley in Garfield County are home to an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 residents living in about 3,000 homes, said Jon Fox-Rubin, who now leads the Manaus Residential Innovation Project.
In recent months, another Manaus spin-off, the Mountain Voices Project, has been working with Kaiser Permanente and its Partners in Evaluation and Research (PiER) to evaluate the state’s 2020 and 2022 legislation targeting the conservation of Targeting RV parks in Colorado.
Three of Garfield County’s larger mobile home parks — Cavern Springs near the CMC turnoff south of Glenwood Springs, Apple Tree Park near New Castle, and Cottonwood Park outside of Rifle — are part of a case study to identify future homeownership potential determine or to maintain them as affordable housing in the long term.
“Some of our community leaders have been working to conduct surveys and have conversations with the people who live in these parks,” Fox-Rubin said in an interview earlier this fall. “Many owners of the caravans feel that this is a stable, long-term place to live, but they often don’t realize how vulnerable they are to a new investor buying the park and trying to raise rents.”
Two of these parks, Apple Tree and Cavern Springs, have changed ownership in recent years and along with the change in management have come new rules and regulations and significant increases in space rents.
“We know there are market avenues to solve this conundrum, but we’re not there as a state,” Fox-Rubin said. “So the idea is to raise awareness and come up with other models to help those residents before their parks go on the market.”
Manaus had attempted to facilitate a deal for residents to make a $12 million bid for Cavern Springs Park, but they were ultimately outbid.
Larger parks can turn to funding organizations such as Thistle ROC (Resident-Owned Cooperative Communities) based in Boulder. Smaller parks like 3 Mile do not qualify.
Because of this, having a nonprofit like Manaus as a facilitator could be a stepping stone for them and other smaller parks across Colorado.
Another attempt to use Thistlerock to facilitate a $6 million purchase for residents at Basalt’s Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park did not materialize because it sits on a floodplain and is prone to flooding, Fox-Rubin said.
“Although the city of Basalt is trying to move forward with a flood management plan, the only way they could have funded it was if they mitigated all of the floodplain problems, which would be incredibly expensive,” he said.
In addition, 17 of the trailers should have been essentially eliminated due to their location on the flood plain and lack of space elsewhere in the park.
The park was eventually sold to a private investor, but a deal with Pitkin County at least caps parking space rents, Fox-Rubin said.
However, without such restrictions, rents can easily become unaffordable. And because many of the RVs are too old, they cannot be moved to another park, even if a space should become available.
“Despite all of these new laws in Colorado, there’s nothing limiting how quickly landlords can raise rent or that it’s reasonable,” he said.
Manaus has a goal of getting five parks in the area in five years and the planned purchase of the 3-mile park could be the model, Schalit said.
The key is willing sellers, like the Kruegers, who wanted to fulfill their father’s wish that one day the park be handed over to the residents.
“They are all really interested in maintaining the community and they come from a family that works at different levels of development and construction and real estate,” Schalit said. “So they had a really good idea of what this property could be and how a developer might look at it.”
To be successful, it needs the approval of both the park owners and the residents, who would ultimately become the owners, Shalit said.
The transition period could also buy some time to resolve some of the issues with 3 Mile and other parks that often have infrastructure issues. For example, at 3 Mile, while the irrigation ditch that flows over homes is a nice convenience, it can also be a problem if it blows out, she said.
Besides the need to raise $250,000 in funding over the next four months to complete the deal, there must be other challenges to putting it all together, Schalit acknowledged.
Manaus wants to secure two loans, including one from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, and will be reaching out to donors to secure funding, she said.
Fox-Rubin said transactions involving individual homes would still be allowed in the transition period following the Manaus takeover, but that they would seek to work with existing residents to stay and be part of the final transfer.
“It’s a bit risky, but it’s less risky than buying it at a mobile home park that could be sold to an open market buyer,” he said. “I think we can also explore some other things while we’re owners, like: B. Working with other nonprofits to explore other issues that residents might find valuable, such as when you don’t know what your future holds.”
Jimenez said he would hate to see anything other than his 35-year-old neighborhood developed on the site.
“I realize there’s going to be some regulation and all these things that you have to deal with,” he said. “But we will do everything we can to achieve this.”
Post Independent Interim Managing Editor and Senior Reporter John Stroud can be reached at [email protected] or at 970-384-9160.