Renovation plans threaten mobile homes

Post Independent Writer
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

By Jeremy Heiman

Special to the Post Independent

A plan to revamp Rock Gardens Mobile Home and Camper Park promises to give the local economy a boost, but it will also eliminate more than 30 much-needed affordable housing units.

Rock Gardens is a resort covering about 13 acres on the Colorado River at Interstate 70’s No Name exit. Its owners, Kevin and Kathy Schneider, want to add spaces for recreational vehicle campers, additional tent camping spaces, a bath house, a community building, and other amenities. To make room for the changes, a mobile home park on the property will eventually have to be removed.

The Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission will review the Schneiders’ proposal tonight.

“A lot of people are asking about the negative aspects of this,” Kevin Schneider said. “But a lot more people are asking about it from the point of view of business.”

Schneider said the demand for RV camping in the Glenwood Springs area is huge, and largely unfilled.

“Right now, we turn away a lot of RVers every night,” he said. “It’s going to help drive the tourist economy. I think the community will benefit from it as well.”

The first phase of the proposal to redevelop the resort will emphasize adding spaces and services for RV camping.

As part of that first phase, eight older residential units, including mobile homes and camping cabins, located north of the Rock Gardens office, will be removed. These units are owned by Rock Gardens and currently rented on a month-to-month basis, Schneider said.

Phase two of the redevelopment, tentatively scheduled to begin in the fall of 2005, will require removal of most of the 28 mobile homes now located in two rows in the middle of the property, Schneider said.

Of those trailers, 12 or 13 are owned by their occupants, who rent the sites from Rock Gardens. It will be up to the owners of those trailers to move them, when the time comes, Schneider said.

The space now occupied by the mobile homes will be used for additional RV parking. A new community center building will be built, and the Rock Gardens office building, camp store and storage buildings will be enlarged.

The community center building will feature a climbing wall, and will be available to rent for family reunions and other large get-togethers, Schneider said. The building will have a grill and a limited food service menu.

“I’m visualizing something like the barbecue grill on the deck at Sunlight ski area,” he said.

Two apartments for employees will be built on top of the community building, Schneider said, and a small number of mobile homes will be retained for further employee housing on the site.

One of the most significant parts of the first phase of the redevelopment proposal is the addition of a wastewater treatment plant to be located on the west side of the property, at the edge of the river. Rock Gardens is now served by septic tanks and leach fields.

The sewer plant was approved by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment last winter, and also has Garfield County’s blessing. Schneider said the wastewater plant may serve customers outside Rock Gardens in the future, perhaps other No Name residents or the Colorado Department of Transportation’s nearby rest area.

“We built it with the capacity to accommodate more people,” Schneider said, “but at this point in time, no one has asked.”

One part of phase one, drilling an additional well and adding cisterns for drinking water and fire protection, has already been completed.

The unfinished portion of phase one will begin this fall, after the busy season is over, if the project gets the blessing of the county, Schneider said.

“Hopefully, we’ll have phase one in operation next summer,” Schneider said.

With its raft company, bicycle rental operation, and various other concessions, Rock Gardens employs up to 50 people in the peak season, and keeps three full-time employees year-round, he said.

Throughout the redevelopment process, the approximately 50 tent camping sites along the Colorado River bank will remain as they are, according to the application documents.

The Rock Gardens property is over 43 acres in all, but all the development will take place within about 13 acres on the north side of the river. The remaining 30 acres to the south side of the river will remain as open space, undisturbed except for primitive trails and what’s called a “challenge course.” This property is reachable only by boat.

Ron Liston, planning consultant on the project, said that the whole property is now zoned “Low Density Residential,” and mapped as vacant land, although the property has been used for its current activities at least since the 1960s. Liston said he and the owners are asking the county to recategorize the property as “recreational,” a designation used for Sunlight Mountain Resort and the West Bank Golf Course, in the county’s Comprehensive Plan. They want to rezone the property “Planned Unit Development,” which is a flexible zone designation that allows for multiple uses identified and approved by the county.

Schneider is optimistic about the outcome of the project.

“When this project is done,” he said, “it’ll be one of the nicest campground’s on the Western Slope.”

Contact Jeremy Heiman: 945-8515, ext. 534

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