News Column

Group still believes in ag-themed park

July 24, 2014

By Matt Hildner, The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo.



July 24--ALAMOSA -- With a legal battle in their rearview mirror, supporters of an agricultural-themed park along the Rio Grande are now focused on fundraising and kickstarting a communityplanning process for the land.

San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land has purchased the 38-acre parcel with the help of a $700,000 loan and $375,000 in local fundraising.

And the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition that was central to the push to create the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park intends to buy the property from the trust.

"We have every intention to purchase that land for the community," said Liza Marron, director of the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition. "First and foremost is to pay off the bridge loan."

That means more fundraising for supporters, who initially had offered the Alamosa School District RE-11J $750,000 for the property of the former Polston Elementary School.

Instead, the school board chose to sell the land for $250,000 to Alamosa County Surveyor Dan Russell, who planned to develop an RV park at the site.

The settlement of a subsequent lawsuit earlier this month led to

park supporters buying the site from Russell for $900,000.

But the need to fund raise will not stand in the way of other steps in the development of a park.

"The lenders loaned the amount they did to allow the local foods coalition to hire a director and maintain the land," Marron said.

The local foods coalition is forming a task force that will conduct a search for a park director who will be in place by Dec. 1.

And the group also will undertake a new planning process for what the site will include, although the over-riding theme will retain an emphasis on agriculture.

Although a multiyear plan had been established and posted on the website for the park, the group wanted to undertake a new one following the lawsuit.

"It's kind of a new ballgame now," she said.

The coalition hopes to schedule meetings in August and September to gather public input.

In the meantime, members of the coalition and supporters of the park will continue to work on the site.

The property, which includes a water right, has pasture and a garden on the north end that are still being irrigated.

But the remainder of the property will give the group its biggest maintenance task. "Controlling weeds is No. 1," she said.

The public will be welcome to tour the site at 10 a.m.Aug. 1, Marron said.

mhildner@yahoo.com

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(c)2014 The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.)

Visit The Pueblo Chieftain (Pueblo, Colo.) at www.chieftain.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Pueblo Chieftain (CO)


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