Late last week, I made the gorgeous late summer drive west along I-70 to the mountain town of Avon, specifically to the Aspens Mobile Home Village. It’s one of Eagle county’s 31 trailer parks and among its largest, with 159 lots. Nearly all are occupied by construction workers, landscapers, painters, roofers, housekeepers, fast-food workers, cashiers and nannies, the labor force of a region dependent on tourists flocking to its ski and golf resorts.
The trip was part of a reporting project called “Parked: Half the American Dream” that will launch this Sunday. The package of stories on Colorado’s mobile home parks that make up this project represent an ambitious collaboration — organized and led by our colleagues at The Colorado Sun — among news organizations across the state.
Among the project’s findings:
More than 100,000 people live in more than 900 mobile home parks across Colorado. But the number of parks is declining and ownership is consolidating as mom-and-pop operations sell out to large investors, sometimes leading to displacement and redevelopment.
In Adams County, which has the state’s largest concentration of mobile homes, the number of both homes and parks has dropped to 11,300 homes in 66 parks today, from more than 13,000 mobile homes in 71 parks 20 years ago, according to assessor records.
About a third of Weld County’s mobile homes were built from 1960 to 1979, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That means many homes don’t meet modern safety standards. Some homes continue to have aluminum wiring, which increases the fire hazard.
About 1,300 households live in 45 mobile home parks across La Plata County, and residents in the Durango area say they have seen lot rents increase by 50% to 100% in parks owned by corporations.
The 2013 floods continue to reverberate for many mobile home residents in northern Colorado. In just three communities — Lyons, Evans and Milliken — researchers tracked the destruction of 273 mobile homes, most of which were not rebuilt or replaced because parks failed to reopen.
Aspen first took steps in the early 1980s to preserve a mobile home park in the middle of town that still exists today as a cherished affordable housing neighborhood. Pitkin County has since bought or helped preserve four more mobile home parks in the upper Roaring Fork Valley for affordable housing.
In Telluride, the last nearby mobile home park — in unincorporated San Miguel County — closed in the early 1990s.
The Independent will start running the package of stories Sunday. As they are published, we will post them all in one easy-to-find page on the site.
It’s a remarkable scope of work on a critical issue in Colorado. Kudos to The Sun, the Aurora Sentinel, the Coloradoan, the Greeley Tribune, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Aspen Times, the Steamboat Pilot, the Ouray County Plain Dealer, the Cortez Journal, the Delta County Independent, the Durango Herald, the Montrose Daily Press, KUNC and the Associated Press, which is contributing a national perspective and distributing the series to its members. It’s good work, people. I hope you will read, comment and provide your own insights and experiences.