Local News

Pan and Fork residents moving from one flood-risk area to another

October 28, 2013
Pan and Fork residents moving from one flood-risk area to another Basalt officials have long cited the potential for flooding at the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park as a driving factor behind the town's plan to relocate the residents living there. After the residents are moved out, the town plans to do environmental restoration and flood mitigation work at the site of the former mobile home park. But as KDNK's Ed Williams reports, some residents of the Pan and Fork are moving to other flood-prone mobile home parks in the Valley. 

(Click here for a link to this story in the Aspen Daily News).
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Flood maps drawn up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency show the Pan and Fork is in the floodplain of the Roaring Fork River—an area FEMA says would be swamped with water in the event of a large flood. But those same maps show that three other mobile home parks along the Roaring Fork are at a similar risk of flooding. And with the help of town officials, some residents of the Pan and Fork have found new homes in at least two those other trailer parks.

The Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park, just across the street from the Pan and Fork but outside of Basalt's town boundaries, is at an even higher risk for flood damage than the Pan and Fork according to FEMA maps because the entire park sits in the floodway, an area where moving water is projected to flow in the event of a flood. One family from the Pan and Fork recently moved to the Roaring Fork Park with help from town officials.

Lazy Glen, a mixed-unit affordable housing development west of Old Snowmass, is partially in the floodway of the Roaring Fork. Another family from the Pan and Fork recently moved there, also with help from the town of Basalt.

A third mobile home park, River Meadows in Glenwood Springs, is entirely in the floodplain. Basalt Town Finance Director Judi Tippets, who is helping Pan and Fork residents find new housing, said she hasn't worked on moving anyone into River Meadows, and the manager of that park did not respond to calls asking if any Pan and Fork residents had found housing there independently.

Basalt officials don't have any legal obligation to compensate residents displaced by renovations at the Pan and Fork, but they are offering settlements averaging $20,000 and are helping residents find other affordable housing options.

Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said town officials did not factor flood risks in the broader Roaring Fork watershed into their relocation plans for the Pan and Fork residents.

"We didn't really talk about flood danger in those jurisdictions that are outside our control," she said. "I can easily imagine a flood happening in the other trailer park that's near town."

Councilman Rick Stevens, a former Basalt mayor who has been working on the town's River Master Plan since its inception, said he wasn't aware of the status of other mobile home parks in the Valley in terms of flood risk.

"It's buyer beware," Stevens said of the flood risk in other mobile home parks. "People don't give the residents in these mobile home parks enough credit that they can manage their own future. They've managed their own future to this point, and there's nothing to say that they can't manage their own future as that comes along."

Several documents and studies sponsored by the town, including Basalt's River Master Plan and Town Master Plan, do specifically point to flood dangers in the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park and Lazy Glen, as well as the Pan and Fork.

Communication gaps between town officials and the largely Spanish-speaking residents of the Pan and Fork have been a persistent issue throughout the relocation process.

Irma Díaz, who has lived in the Pan and Fork for almost two decades, says the residents of the trailer park aren't buying the town's contention that they are in danger of flooding.

"Look at Lazy Glen—it's worse than here, they don't have any protection from the river at all," she said in Spanish. "At least here there is a small hill between us and the river. How can they tell us they want to protect us from floods? It's just a pretext to get us out of here." "

"It's been clearly indicated in every hydrologic study and all the hydrologic maps that [the Pan and Fork] is in the floodway," said Mayor Jacque Whitsitt in response. "If there's a feeling out there that we didn't communicate the dangers of the floodway, I regret that."

Basalt officials hope to have all residents of the Pan and Fork relocated by March of next year.