Trash or Treasure: Those who call it home
September 14, 2006
SUMMIT COUNTY Like most trailer parks in the county, Farmers Korner is a place of stark juxtapositions. Half way down its gravel driveway on a recent afternoon, a fearsome looking bulldog was barking at a determined, but debarked little spaniel. Around the corner of the driveway, a shiny champagne-colored SUV was parked across from a run-down van called The Shagon Wagon. One trailer close by was adorned with iridescent glass butterflies. Another boasted a National Rifle Association beacon.The people here are just as polarized: young and old, white and Latino, happy and not-so-happy. Suzie Way, who lives at lot C-9, is one of the white ones, a middle-aged woman with brown hair and a no-messing-around attitude that frequently cracks into broad grins.I dont like my neighbors five inches from my bathroom window, so this works for me, she said, pointing at the ample space between her trailer and the next. And I cant see paying $200,000 for a condo. That to me is ridiculous.So she settles for a lot rent of $530 a month at Farmers Korner, which includes utilities and sewer charges. The fact that Summit, her home of 25 years, has become too commercialized, overpriced and filled with poorly built stack shacks bothers her, but the physical reality of residing here doesnt seem to.They try to make the park as nice as they can, family-oriented, she said. (The owners) work with everyone with the upkeep of yards. And there was a party for all the residents this weekend. An afternoon barbecue and all-night party. It was pretty good.Way was seated in a wooden chair in front of her trailer, looking east. Across the gravel driveway, at lot C-14, a man in blue-jean overalls was perched on a wooden stool, looking west. His voice was marked by a Midwestern twang, and he spoke slowly, as if he were shell-shocked.Its trailer trash, he said when asked of the community at Farmers Korner. Sure you might have a friend or two here, but people have a tendency to do whatever they want. People playing stereos real loud this boom, boom, boom crap. People burning trash in their wood burning stove. People driving fast down the main road.The man, John Martin, stood from his stool and cast a disapproving glare at two kids next door who were firing rocks with a slingshot.This is still the Wild West, he said. Anything goes.Way and Martin are just two of the many trailer park residents interviewed for this series in the past two months. Rarely have any of them spoken of their living situation in exultant terms. Rather, they say, Its alright, It aint bad, You make do with what you got. Its OK, said Rae Downie, a 66-year-old who has lived at Farmers Korner for 12 years. I would much rather have a house, but you know, this is my home. So I enjoy it.Well, its a first experience for us living in a trailer because we dont live in these things in Jamaica, said Claudette Davis, a recent arrival from Jamaica who has lived in Swan Meadow Village for three months. When using the washer/dryer, you can feel the whole place vibrate.My house (in Mexico) was better, said Ivan Cesar Muis, a resident of Cottonwood Court Mobile Home Park in Silverthorne, but I dont want to pay $1,000 rent for the same here, so this one is small but fine.The amount they save by living in a trailer varies. The trailer park on Granite Street in Frisco, for instance, is owned by the Colorado Department of Transportation, and most of the workers living there pay only $100 a month in lot rent. That figure rises to $500 a month at D&D Mobile Home Park in Silverthorne and to $695 at Kingdom Park Court, the trailer park located next to the Breckenridge Recreation Center. Tack on utilities that can soar up to $300 a month in the dead of winter, and monthly fees still arent cheap. But theyre certainly cheaper than most elsewhere.It really, really provides affordable housing, said Lori Cutunilli, owner of Farmers Korner. I truly think its the only affordable housing in the county.Often times in the past, that affordability has attracted a less-than-desirable crowd into their resident pool. In the late 1990s, the now-demolished River Bar West Trailer Park in Silverthorne was a hotbed for drug use and domestic violence.
At the Silverthorne Police Department, we called it The Combat Zone, said Sheriff John Minor. We had drug dealers shooting out the lights with pellet guns so it would be dark at night in the trailer park. And we were averaging two serious felony crimes against persons per month.River Bar West was sold and subsequently turned into Target in 2000, but Minor said there are still occasional problems with drug dealing and domestic violence at trailer parks today. Two of the 34 Summit County residents arrested by the Drug Enforcement Agency in May 2006 lived in trailer parks one at Peak 8 and one at Kingdom Park Court. Then again, Minor was quick to add that while most residents of trailer parks in Summit arent rich, the vast majority of them arent degenerates or drug dealers, either. For some, trailer parks are merely the most affordable housing option in a county they love but can barely afford. For others, theyre an opportunity to save now and buy into more permanent housing later. Julio Mora is the immigrant integration coordinator for the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. He is also the High Country Soccer outreach coordinator for the Latino community. The 29-year-old spent his first two years in Summit living at Farmers Korner Trailer Park with his mother, Juana Mora, who still resides there.A large percent of the trailer park (population) in Summit is Latino, probably 70 to 80 percent, he said. And for most of them, the goal is permanent housing. At least everyone I know, its just to get started, to own something and then move on to purchase a piece of land.That worked for Mora, who lives with his wife and two baby girls in a duplex in Frisco, but for many others, the goal has yet to come to fruition which means that for now, life in a trailer park will continue.I just hope that we can keep (the trailer parks) going, because when they say that theyre building all these condos, that theyre for affordable housing, I just dont see it, said Peggy Pruitt, a longtime resident of Farmers Korner. Because Ive been up here for so long, when I walk down Frisco Main Street and see the condos just shooting up, I think its just really sad. I think that if we could have more affordable housing, OK. But for me, this park is as affordable as I can get.Andrew Tolve can be reached at email@example.com.