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Battlement Mesa, Parachute aim to work closer together on affordable housing, economy

A bird's-eye view of Battlement Mesa and Parachute on Wednesday morning.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Battlement Mesa and Parachute plan to kick off a series of meetings over how to work closer together on future development, a community official said.

“The target here is to get a shared interest on the part of both communities,” Battlement Mesa Metro District Assistant Manager Vinnie Tomasulo said, “so that we can speak with a singular voice to some of the various entities that can provide funding for the community.”

Called State of the Grand Valley, the first of three meetings is slated for 6:30-8 p.m. March 29. It takes place at the Grand Valley Recreation Center, located at 0398 Arroyo Drive, Battlement Mesa.



Keynote speakers include Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson, Garfield County Housing Authority Executive Director Cheryl Strouse and Parachute Town Manager Travis Elliott.

There, they will address ways the two Western Garfield County communities can take on issues like affordable housing, economic diversification and mental health issues.



“We’re hoping with each meeting, we’ll have more and more participation,” Tomasulo said. “We’re looking for a big turnout.”

The unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa is the product of a late 1970s oil shale boom, with Exxon Mobile acquiring land and building employee housing.

“Before that, there were 5-6 ranches with cattle and hay,” Tomasulo said.

The community is overseen by Garfield County and held together by special districts, while Parachute is in fact its own municipality recognized by Colorado. In other words, they have completely different tax structures.

But despite being different in name, the two communities share the same school district, parks and recreation department, fire district and wastewater facilities.

Samson, also a lifelong Garfield County resident, remembers when a tight Battlement Mesa housing market was flipped upside down when Exxon left in 1982.

“Then we had the crash of oil and gas, and there were all kinds of places to buy and rent in Battlement Mesa,” Samson said. “But now things have flipped again, and it’s tough to find a place to buy or rent or lease in Battlement Mesa.”

Come summer, Battlement Mesa is about to see at least more than 200 housing units being built in the area. This means the availability of affordable housing is going to be top priority for the two communities.

“There’s always problems when you have two groups of people joining together,” Samson said. “But I think this is a tremendous opportunity for these two communities to work together on accomplishing common goals.”

Another issue is how to pay for an increase in mental health services, Samson said.

“This pandemic has not been good in that category,” he said. “Older people, kids… it’s affected a lot of people.”

Samson also said the past four years have seen natural gas prices continue to drop, which is why a push for economic diversification is a must for the two communities.

“So, that’s where I see my role as a commissioner, to reassure these people, ‘Hey, we’re here, we support you and we want to see the two communities come together and work together,’” Samson said.

For Elliott, this could mean Battlement Mesa and Parachute looking at ways to bolster public recreation and physical connectivity through the Parachute Area Transit System.

“It’s pretty obvious there’s a lot of residential development on the Battlement side of the river,” he said. “What does that mean for the commercial side of Parachute?”

Elliott said a comprehensive draft highlighting these issues will be unveiled during the first meeting on March 29.

“What works for Battlement Mesa is going to work for us,” he said. “In a lot of ways, we’re going to get a lot of good things.”

IF YOU GO

What: State of the Grand Valley

When: 6:30-8 p.m. March 29

Where: Grand Valley Recreation Center, 0398 Arroyo Drive, Battlement Mesa

How much: Free

QUICK FACTS

BATTLEMENT MESA (U.S. Census 2020)

Population: 5,438

Households: 1,918

Median household income: $68,188

PARACHUTE (U.S. Census 2020)

Population: 1,390

Households: 498

Median household income: $52,500

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com


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