Negotiations gain speed for Athletic Fields

Photo by Lyndsie Ferrell Negotiations between Rio Grande County Commissioners, D Mountain Parks and Recreation and the Upper Rio Grande School District are gaining speed to determine the future of the Del Norte Athletic Fields.

DEL NORTE — Negotiations between Rio Grande County Commissioners, the Upper Rio Grande School District (URGSD), D Mountain Parks and Recreation and community members began to gain speed about the future of the Del Norte Community Athletic Fields on Friday, April 23, during a commissioner work session. Several people gathered in the Rio Grande Commissioner chambers to discuss the future of the 40-acre parcel of land and to try reach a resolution.

The Del Norte Athletic Fields have been on the table for discussion since it was first brought to commissioners in 2017 when the URGSD Superintendent Chris Burr came to find out more information about the land when the school was awarded the BEST grant for a new building. Burr stated during the meeting that the discussion with past board members fizzled out after some time but that now it was more important than ever to revisit the issue with ownership and get it resolved for the community’s sake.

Rio Grande Commissioner Gene Glover stated before the beginning of the work session that there was only one main reason for everyone in attendance to be in that room and it was to resolve the land ownership issue for the children.

“I would ask everyone here today that we all remember that we are here for the children in our community and to find an amicable resolution that best suits their needs,” Glover said.

The issue that all entities involved are running into is the fact that when the land was purchased in 1996 there was an agreement between the school and the Rio Grande County Commissioners at the time that both entities would split the purchase cost, the county paying a third and the school paying the rest, and that ownership of the land would be deeded to the school once the total amount of the purchase was paid. The land was never deeded to the school and nothing was done with the land after 1996 when landscaping, a walking trail and concession stand was put on the property.

It was also agreed during the 90’s that the school would care for the land and that the county would help facilitate that. The school maintained the land until a year ago when confusion on ownership became an issue.

Last July, D Mountain Parks and Recreation came into the picture hoping to get some use out of the land by using Colorado Great Outdoor funding which it received regularly to begin work on beatification and begin plans to build a community recreation center. Rio Grande County Commissioners also decided they no longer wanted to be the fiscal agents for a Department of Local Affairs grant that was awarded some years ago and the Town of Del Norte offered to take over responsibility for the grant so D Mountain Parks and Recreation could use it toward future projects.

Once again, the topic was tabled for further review because of more pressing matters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the parties have come together in hopes of resolving the issue. By the end of the work session, it was stated that the school had identified additional acreage that they would be willing to transfer to D Mountain Parks and Recreation for its purposes, such as the recreation center, about 10 acres.

The school district is financially ready to beautify the land and create a community park immediately.

It was decided that all parties, specifically the main three entities would bring the discussion back to the table during regular meetings so that an agreement — an intergovernmental agreement or memorandum of understanding — could be created and agreed upon before the end of the school year.

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