As Basalt Trailers Empty, Residents' Opinions Vary on Relocation

Dec 4, 2013

Ralph Vasquez lives in the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park, where residents are being relocated to make way for a park. He's unhappy with the situation and wants to see change.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Some Basalt families are angry about being removed from their homes. The relocation is part of an effort to get residents out of a flood plain and restore the Roaring Fork River. Now, frustrated residents are meeting directly with town officials. The Town of Basalt is holding a meeting next week with a committee called Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports.

The Town is helping families relocate from nearly 40 trailer homes in the center of town to make way for a public park. So far, more than two dozen families have moved from the Pan and Fork Mobile Home park, alongside the Roaring Fork River. Many have moved to other trailer parks in places like El Jebel, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Mike Scanlon is Basalt Town Manager.

"Since we got started on construction on the river, I will tell you that the interest in moving has really picked up because the residents can see the project happening. So, we’ve had a lot of really good conversations about how and when we can move people," Scanlon says.

The Town started the relocation effort in August. Now, with many families moved, the trailer park increasingly feels like a ghost town with vacant trailers and exposed foundations. But, not everyone is gone.

Ralph Vasquez gives a tour of the home where he and his parents have lived for 16 years.

"I’m almost afraid to show you my room because it’s the biggest mess, probably!"

Vasquez works as a ranch hand in Woody Creek. He has until April to move out and, he’s not happy about it.

"Regardless of what other people may think, there are actually families living here. We’re not the only ones. There are people who have lived here for over 20 years. This is a community and there are families in here that deserve better than what’s being handed out," he says.

He’s willing to move but he’d like to stay in the Basalt area.

"It’ll be nice to stay where the bus is accessible and the schools are close by."

Vasquez is part of a newly-formed committee called Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt. He’s calling out the Town of Basalt and the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation, saying both entities have forgotten a commitment to keep the residents in town. He says the cash “relocation” assistance the Town is offering isn’t enough to pay Basalt’s high rent prices.

"From the beginning, we knew that replacement housing was an option. That was the impression that every single resident of the trailer park had because that’s what they were told. Compared to that, the money is not enough."

At one time, development of a new multi-family complex in the Midvalley was being discussed, but the Roaring Fork CDC decided it was too expensive. Now, the Town is offering money to residents and working with them to find affordable housing.

One resident who’s happy with the arrangement is Maria Guzman. She was one of the first to move from the Pan and Fork. Now, she lives in an apartment in Glenwood Springs.

"Over there, in my apartment, (there's) more space compared to the little, tiny trailer in Basalt," she says.

Guzman says she gained more space but lost her job in Aspen. She’s currently unemployed and searching for a job.

Her former neighbors, Chela Martinez and Arturo Torres moved out in November. They’re still looking for a new place to live. The couple misses the roomy trailer but says they understand why they had to move.

"We are in a place that doesn’t belong to us and also (in) the country, even though we are legal residents, this is not my country and this is not my place. I can’t sit there and say, ‘No! This is my house’!," Martinez says.

Martinez says the Town didn’t have to dole out “relocation” money. But, she’s grateful for it.

"I feel that in reality, the Town of Basalt is doing good with us," she says.

Although some residents are resigned to the situation, others are not. Ralph Vasquez and his group Workers for Justice and Diversity in Basalt have made a list of demands. They want the Town to stop relocating people until housing is found in Basalt similar in size and price to the trailer park. They also want professional interpreters at all meetings related to the relocation and redevelopment of the land.

Town officials will hold a meeting with the group on Monday night. They say they will try and see “if there are options that haven’t been considered that the Town should be exploring.”