Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rio Grande Healthy Living Park

For the latest information on what is happening with the Polston property and the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park go to the new blog which is focused on keeping Polston as a public property at or the new Facebook page!/groups/keeppolstonpublic/?fref=ts

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Sad Day for Alamosa and the LFC

School sells Polston for RV resort

Posted: Friday, May 10th, 2013

From left, Alamosa resident Karen Lemke, Rio Grande Healthy Living Park project leader Luette Frost, SLV Local Food Coalition Director Liza Marron, and Adams State student life coordinator Aaron Miltenburger, rear center, listen to the school board make its decision to sell the Polston property to Dan Russell. Those in support of the healthy living park wore green and donned stickers saying, “The healthy living park loves our schools.” Courier photo by Lauren Krizansky

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — After hearing two Polston property visions, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) moved in a special meeting Thursday morning to sell local businessman Dan Russell the parcel to realize his RV resort dream.

The ABOE voted six to one to seal the sales deal with Russell, who will pay $500,000 for the 38-acre property with water rights that was recently appraised for $755,000. The Trust for Public Lands (TPL), a California-based non-profit public benefit corporation representing the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition, offered to pay the appraised amount for the parcel to create the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park. Russell and the ABOE are expected to close the sale in August.

ABOE Official Neil Hammer cast the only dissenting vote after the school district leaders emerged from a timely executive session that followed the presentations.

“The difference in price would be a great benefit to educate our children,” Hammer said about the $250,000 loss. “It would help us.”

The money, which is earmarked for capital improvements, was one of many factors the ABOE took into consideration before making the decision.

“I appreciate both parties and the ideas, thoughts and passions they have for each project,” said ABOE President Bill Van Gieson. “It’s tough when the weight of the community’s direction falls on the shoulders of the school board.”

According to Russell’s calculations, his RV resort will generate $50,000 in property taxes annually in addition to upwards of $2 million locally spent tourist dollars.

“This makes the land taxable and it will support future school needs,” Russell said. “This is a commitment to support our community.”

Russell’s property interest is founded in improving Alamosa’s economic state through providing a “destination” and access to the preexisting Alamosa Ranch/Cole Park area through an expanded parking area and RV resort. He said such a development, located on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 160, would allow people immediate opportunities to explore the city and its natural settings while raising the tax base.

His preliminary plans include creating 300 parking spaces near Cole Park’s Rio Grande River footbridge and roughly 200 RV lots. They also include a land exchange with the City of Alamosa, a private fishing pond, the ability for golfers to drive their carts to Cattails and solutions to impending challenges from the East Alamosa Water and Sanitation District that include tap fees.

His plan, however, will require working with the city to accommodate some components like driving a golf cart on the levees and public roadways, which ordinances do not currently permit.

“I am working with the city to get them on board,” Russell said before the ABOE took its vote. “This is an opportunity for the community to make money.”

TLP wanted to acquire the property to develop the healthy living park based on similar projects across the state and nationwide. The park would have provided access to the Alamosa Ranch via bike and walking trails. It would have also potentially included quarter acre farm plots to encourage new farmer development; community gardens and greenhouses; a multi-purpose building with possible kitchen space, classrooms and a food distribution warehouse; outdoor events space; amphitheater; theme gardens; outdoor classroom space; picnic tables; a wetlands preservation site; a traditional water uses education site; a sites of the San Luis Valley playground; and exercise stations.

TPL project manager Wade Shelton explained to the ABOE that transforming the idle parcel into a healthy living park would boost property values within walking distance 15 percent, protect natural resources and improve the community’s health. The Polston property, he said, was “unique” and one of the best opportunities he has seen in the state to develop in such a manner because of its size and water rights.

“In Colorado, water is usually a limiting factor,” Shelton said. “Here, we don’t have that problem.”

He added, “There is an opportunity to be a trailblazer. If this moves forward, we believe it will generate national attention and increase tourism.”

TPL would have made the proposed healthy living park a reality with grant dollars from the Colorado Health Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado in addition to securing some private funding from both inside and outside the Valley.

“This is the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of parks, playground equipment and food production,” Shelton said. “It would set Alamosa apart.”

Besides Shelton’s Thursday morning presentation, the ABOE received a number of letters in support of the healthy living park for a number of reasons.

“The healthy living park is a place for open space, but most importantly it is an economic incubator for the students and alumni of San Luis Valley schools to continue their learning, a place where they can shape their own path to economic success and subsequent contribution to the local tax base,” wrote Patrick O’Neill, an Agro Engineering, Inc. agronomist. “We have a burgeoning local foods movement across the United States, including in the San Luis Valley – we will need the space to nurture the development of this economy, the Polston property being ideal for just such a venture.”

Alamosa resident Karen Lemke expressed concern for Alamosa’s future generations and the food growing opportunities the property has provided for the struggling Guatemalan community.

“I think it is important to consider all of the people impacted by the decision,” Lemke wrote. "We must certainly think of the children of Alamosa—what outcome will promise the most for their future? It is also important to remember that Alamosa is a diverse community—our children come from different economic backgrounds, different ethnic backgrounds."

Although the Polston property is no longer an option, the San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition might have access to other abandoned lands. The Alamosa County Economic Development/Chamber of Commerce has identified areas that could give the coalition another chance to bring a healthy living park to the Valley.

On-Site Manager for Alamosa Market

The Alamosa Farmers’ Market is seeking an on-site manager to oversee the seasonal Saturday markets in downtown Alamosa. For a full job description go to Applicants should submit a resume and cover letter to by the end of the day, Friday, May 17.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Alamosa School District voted to sell the rich agricultural Polston land to Dan Russell for $500,000 to build an RV park and to put in a big parking lot at the footbridge.
Trust for Public Land Partner in land acquisition came and gave an awesome presentation, over 30 letters from a diversity of community members and state partners were written on short notice, more than 50 people showed up to support the Healthy Living Park proposal at 6:30am!   Breach of fiduciary duty here. Action is being planned. Here is believing!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Urgent Action to Keep Healthy Living Park

Last night the Alamosa School Board went into Executive Session and came out to announce that they would like to hear from both parties interested in purchasing the former Polston School Campus on Hwy 17 just North of Hwy 160. The meeting is at 6:30am on Thursday May 9th at 209 Victoria Avenue.
This 38.2 acres on the Rio Grande River has been the focus of a longtime community effort to purchase and build a Healthy Living Park.
Action Items:
  • Write Email/letter of support to ASD Board (see template below)
  • Show up at 209 Victoria at 6:30am on Thursday May 9th - Wear green to identify yourself as a Healthy Living Park supporter.
This land has some of the best quality soil in the valley, and is the perfect location for an agricultural park. It ties in economic development, agriculture, education, nutrition and physical activity. It provides an opportunity to create a beautiful northeastern entrance to Alamosa, while tying the community back to the land and supporting young farmers. It provides an opportunity for business incubation through a San Luis Valley farm distribution center and a commercial kitchen, there are plans for growing greenhouse vegetables for our fourteen school districts year round. There is potential to connect East and West Alamosa via bike and walking paths and to realize community ideas such as an agricultural museum, clamshell amphitheater, a beautiful wedding space, a SLV Farm restaurant, and a community gathering and play place.
Our mission: To develop a healthy living park that promotes local agriculture and tourism, an values conservation and sustainability
Our vision: the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park cultivates a sustainable local foods system, healthy living practices , and local arts and culture inspired by the rich agricultural heritage of the San Luis Valley.
The Trust For Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. They, on behalf of the Local Foods Coalition and greater community are prepared to raise the appraised value of $750,000 with a 7 month purchase option.
The other offer of $450,000, is from Dan Russell who is proposing an RV Park.  This offer was refused and a counter offer is on the table. 
We are asking you to write an email or send an electronic letter to the Alamosa School Board to the Attention of Superintendent Rob Alejo and to copy:
  • school secretary Bev Boice,
  • Alamosa Courier 
  • Local Foods Coalition - emails below
Please emphasize the economic development potential for the park as this is a main consideration of the board - looking for property tax income, increase in pupil count and job creation.
Other theme ideas to touch on if you would like are
  • Agricultural heritage of SLV,
  • Education,
  • Sense of Community and
  • Quality of Life
Please do by noon tomorrow to give board members a chance to read the letter before the 6:30am meeting.
I have included a template below to cut and paste if you would rather not write your own.
Questions call 719-539-5606 
Thank-you Thank-you
Here is believing!
Superintendent Rob Alejo -
Bev Boice -,
Lauren at Valley Courier-
Local Foods Coalition at
To Esteemed Alamosa School District Board Members,
This email is to express my support of the proposed Rio Grande Healthy Living Park at the Polston campus.
I believe it will contribute to the economic development of the community by connecting families back to the land, educating beginning farmers, creating a market for San Luis Valley products to be distributed to schools, restaurants and institutions and producing vegetables in year round production greenhouses.
It will create jobs and will attract new families to the community.
The Trust for Public Land is an accomplished land conservation entity and we are so fortunate to have such an excellent partner to move this project forward.
Thank-you for your support of the Trust for Public Land's purchase option.
The San Luis Valley Local Foods Coalition develops local networks, educates the community, and promotes programs and policies that create an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable local food system for the San Luis Valley region.
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