Elk Creek Campground tenants may be left out in cold after eviction notices
Following months of inaction from a property owner facing multiple county code violations, several long-term tenants at the Elk Creek Campground north of New Castle are being told to leave in the middle of winter.
The property owner is also facing possible legal action by Garfield County.
Some of the soon-to-be displaced residents appeared before the county commissioners Tuesday, saying they were advised just two weeks ago by the owners to leave.
The Elk Creek Campground is permitted only as a seasonal operation, but the owner had indicated last fall that he had permission to allow 15 campers to remain through the winter, said one of those now-former tenants, Richard Dexter.
The county is in the midst of a permit dispute with the relatively new owners of the campground over the seasonal violation and other alleged code violations related to water and sewer concerns.
Commissioners met in executive session regarding the situation Tuesday and could take legal action to revoke the permit.
Dexter, who moved into the campground last September, said he has since been able to remove his camper after chiseling the ice away from the wheels. He said he was fortunate to find a place to relocate while he is committed to work a job in the area.
That’s not the case for others, though.
Some said they will have difficulty even pulling their campers or RVs out of the campground due to the ice and snow, especially under such short notice and with few or no available spaces for RVs in the area.
Few campgrounds are allowed to have year-round tenants, and seasonal campgrounds don’t open until May at the earliest, Dexter added.
Some of the Elk Creek tenants are older, and others are families with school-aged children, he said.
“You guys need to consider the humanity here,” Dexter said before the commissioners. “Don’t make the rest of the neighbors suffer because of his (the owner’s) neglect and derelict.”
Multiple calls to the campground Tuesday went to a voice message with no voicemail option.
Commissioners sympathized with the residents, but said that ultimately the code violations need to be remedied, and currently only seasonal camping is allowed.
Camping is also supposed to be limited even during the allowed times to no more than 60 days, one nearby resident also pointed out.
“The next option is to take him to court and maybe shut down the campground,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, adding that a forced eviction could take months, which may buy the tenants some extra time.
“What we have is a property owner who is in violation of his land permit, and what he’s doing is not necessarily ethical,” Jankovsky said after some tenants said they’ve continued to pay rent, and even paid several months’ worth up front.
Added Commissioner Mike Samson, “No one blames the people who are the victims of a person who is breaking the … codes.”
Samson also noted that many of the code issues with the campground predate the current owner, to the point that the state health department is also now involved.
New Castle Town Manager David Reynolds also spoke during the Tuesday meeting. While the town “has a heart” for the campground tenants who are being impacted, there’s a domestic water quality concern for the town’s sake, Reynolds said.
“Hopefully we will work it so you’re not out in the cold,” Commissioner John Martin said of the residents who addressed the commissioners.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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