RIO GRANDE COUNTY — Keeping true to his promise to see that the Upper Rio Grande School District can develop land located south of the new school, Superintendent Chris Burr attended the Rio Grande County Commissioner meeting on March 31 to open discussions with commissioners and to ask that property ownership be transferred to the school district.
It has been two years since Burr and the commissioners held a conversation pertaining to the piece of land that has been used for various school and athletic activities. According to Burr, it is well past time for the land to be developed as was originally planned. It has been unclear who rightfully owns the land and who is responsible for the maintenance which has been done by the school in the past.
According to documents provided by the school district, the land, known as the community athletic fields, was a gift to both the school and the county from a local resident in the mid-1990s. Since that time, the school and county have been unable to clarify who owns the property and it has remained unused since that time. During the meeting on March 31, Burr stated that the school had been chosen by a company who installs playgrounds in various locations around the US and that they had specifically chosen Rio Grande County as one of those locations.
“I came to this board a little over four years ago and told the board at that time that the community athletic fields did not belong to the school, which I think was a surprise for board members back then because it definitely was a surprise to us at the school. I came across some documents for the ownership of the land while researching everything for the BEST grant and the new school. At the time, we could have used some of the BEST grant funding to update some of the facilities over there but because we did not own the land, BEST would not pay to do anything over there,” explained Burr.
Other organizations have come to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and asked for permission to build on the land and use a GOCO grant to help fund projects, but no decisions have been made at this time. Burr also made it clear that the school district was financially capable of developing the walking trails, getting the lawn into better shape and now have an opportunity to build a playground for the community in one area of the lot.
“We have always wanted to beautify that land and we want to reopen those discussions. We stand to lose a possible $250,000 playground if we don’t do something now. These children don’t have something like that here in town. We are here to do what we need to do to make that happen,” continued Burr.
School board member Keith Brown also spoke on behalf of the school stating that he also has no issues with other organizations who want to develop some kind of recreational center on the land as it is a 40-acre property and that he would just like to see that it becomes part of the school complex, making it a beautiful community park as it was meant to be from the beginning.
“We need to get this done. We have this momentum, and we would like to see it ready for baseball season this year if we can,” Brown said.
School board President Neal Walters also addressed the commissioners.
“The school district alone at this point has the resources, financing, infrastructure and the staff that can actually turn this into a park. I can see any board from now and in the future being more than willing to sit down with any organization and work out an agreement to see that this becomes what it can be for this community,” Walters said.
Rio Grande Commissioner Chairman Gene Glover thanked Burr, Brown and Walters for attending the meeting and stated that the board would set up a future work session to discuss the topic in more detail.
“I am not going to make any kind of decision that takes a playground away from our children, so we need to get this resolved,” said Glover.
A meeting between the BOCC and the school will be scheduled for later this week.