House votes to let elderly woman stay in her national park home
DENVER – An 83-year-old woman facing eviction from her home in Rocky Mountain National Park got good news Wednesday: the U.S. House passed a bill that would let her live the rest of her life in the cabin that’s been her home for a quarter century.But Betty Dick can’t forget about finding another place to live yet. The agreement that allowed her and her late husband, Fred, to live in their cabin near the park’s west entrance expires July 16, and the Senate still has to consider the bill.”I’m certainly not without hope,” Dick said in a phone interview from her home in the park about 70 miles northwest of Denver.The National Park Service has said she can take until the end of the summer to move, but it has denied a request from Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., that she be allowed to stay until his legislation has run its course.
A similar measure by Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., is pending in the Senate.Michael Snyder, acting deputy director of the Park Service, testified before a House subcommittee in April that Udall’s legislation would set a bad precedent for similar agreements and leases on Park Service land.Udall and area residents rallied around Dick after news of her impending eviction spread.”Betty Dick is a good steward of this property and has been a good neighbor to the park and the surrounding community,” Udall said. “She has simply asked that she be allowed to continue to contribute to the park and the community and enjoy this property for the rest of her life.”Kyle Patterson, spokeswoman for Rocky Mountain National Park, said moving vans won’t be pulling up to Dick’s cabin in the fall when she typically leaves for her part-time home in Scottsdale Ariz.
“We’ll monitor the legislation through the winter and assess it in the spring,” Patterson said.Fred Dick sued the Park Service in 1979 when his first wife sold their 66.5 acres and cabin to the agency. His first wife got the property in the divorce, but he had right of first refusal.In an out-of-court settlement, the Park Service acquired about two-thirds of the property. Dick and her husband kept 23 acres and the cabin and paid the government $7,500.Dick said she has records showing the agreement was supposed to be a “life estate,” meaning they could live there the rest of their lives. The final documents, though, limited the couple’s time on the land to 25 years.
She said by then, her husband had run out of money and the desire to fight. Her husband, who died in 1992, figured the agreement would outlast both of them.Dick, who spends part of the year in Scottsdale, Ariz., said she doesn’t want to move. She’s active in area church and civic groups and often invites friends to her home, surrounded on three sides by the Continental Divide.The Colorado River, still a creek near its beginning, flows by her front door. Moose and elk roam through her yard.”It’s absolutely the most peaceful place in the world,” she said.
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