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Colorado community makes a stand for their Healthy Living Park dream… and wins!

Nadine Watters
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Alamosa, Colorado is in the San Luis River Valley and is a tough place to live… and especially a tough place to farm.  But the residents of the town have always been dedicated to creating a sustainable way of life and have maximized the short 90 day growing season(1).

When the school district announced it was closing Polston Elementary School, which was located on a 38 acre tract running along the Rio Grande, some of the local community got excited about new possibilities for the land.

For several years, a community garden has been located on the school grounds and used as part of nutrition education in the school.  In addition, it had become a centerpiece for those in the community interested in sustainable agriculture and supporting locally grown foods and farmers markets.

The community came together and envisioned creating a “Healthy Living Park”.

The community vision for the Healthy Living Park is to include walking trails, botanical gardens, an amphitheatre, and also small farm plots to provide food for struggling families and to train growers in sustainable farming methods.  It is to include a farm fresh restaurant and commercial kitchen available to help chefs get started in their new businesses.  And all of this was to be community owned and operated.

In partnership with the Trust for Public Land(TPL), they made a deal with the Education Board to purchase the land for $755,000, the appraised value.

TPL is a national nonprofit dedicated to creating parks and protecting land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come(2).  TPL has many successful projects in the US and their partnership with the Alamosa community made the dream seem viable.  Little did they know that the Education Board was making a deal with another party.  Since the first deal was non-binding, the school board felt free to look at other options.

After much deliberation, the Education Board agreed to sell the land to a private party for $500,000 to build a high end RV park.

The community was shocked and enraged, but channeled their emotion into action.  They raised the money to dispute the agreement and soon enough, they reached a settlement last March(3).  If the community could raise $900,000 by June 27, 2014, they could buy the land from the RV park developer and build their dream of a healthy living park.

The community had 4 months to raise $900,000 to buy the land back.

The community went into action to raise the needed funds.  Even though the $900,000 is significantly higher than the original purchase price of $755,000 and a huge increase over $500,000 that the developer paid, the community wanted the land to manifest their dream.  I heard about the situation from a friend who lives in the community.  She sent an impassioned email letter to everyone she thought might possibly want to help and so did many others.  And the money came rolling in.

Alamosa succeeds and the Healthy Living Park is becoming a reality!(4)

Sources for this article include:

(1) www.westword.com
(2) www.tpl.org
(3) blogs.westword.com
(4) blogs.westword.com

Image source: https://flic.kr/p/h8dJZ9

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