Ag education center to reboot site plans

Neighbors of park prevail to block facility from proposed location

Tabatha Stewart
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 11/1/18

The Elbert County Agricultural Alliance, a group formed last year that consists of rural business owners from Elbert County, has withdrawn its proposal for a homestead-style education center in an …

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Ag education center to reboot site plans

Neighbors of park prevail to block facility from proposed location

Posted

The Elbert County Agricultural Alliance, a group formed last year that consists of rural business owners from Elbert County, has withdrawn its proposal for a homestead-style education center in an Elizabeth park after opposition from neighbors.

The ECAA had hoped to build its education center in Cimarron Park on the north side of Elizabeth, and had been in the process of writing grant proposals and securing funding for the project. Part of the process included meeting with neighbors of the site in a public forum. After hearing from residents of the Cimarron area, and the many reasons why some didn't want the center in their neighborhood, the ECAA withdrew their proposal for the Cimarron Park site.

Cimarron resident Karen Carter has been a vocal opponent of the center being built in Cimarron Park since she first heard of the concept Oct. 2, when she received a mailed invitation to attend a community open house regarding the matter.

Carter helped organize Cimarron residents to meet with the Elizabeth Park and Recreation District, which owns the park and had expressed support for the project.

“The news of the project caught just about everyone by surprise,” said Carter. “The residents didn't take well to the plans, and we started organizing and going door to door.”

Concerns included the need for a well, which Cimarron residents fear might hurt their water access, added parking and traffic strains, and the elimination of many of the current park uses by residents.

According to Carter, Cimarron residents have taken responsibility for taking care of the park, including mowing and maintaining the grounds. The land was purchased by the town parks department years ago for a token amount of $10. Areas of the park are in a floodplain, so building structures or facilities would prove costly, if possible.

“It's not that we're opposed to the idea of an agricultural education center, we're just opposed to it being at this location,” said Carter.

Diane Cribley, with the ECAA, said the alliance wanted to be respectful of Cimarron residents, and had no intention of forcing the center if it wasn't wanted in the community.

“We did pull out of the Cimarron site,” said Cribley. “After meeting with the residents, there was a group who were against it, and we addressed their concerns. We decided it wasn't worth putting people through stress if they don't want it there.”

Rejection by the Cimarron community turned out to be a blessing, according to Cribley.

“There are a number of other opportunities that have come up as a result of pulling out of that site,” said Cribley. “In the end it feels like this is a blessing in disguise. We'll regroup and start on it again next year.”

Mike Barney, executive director of the Elizabeth Park and Recreation District, said the district has supported the ECAA's vision for an education center, but after public meetings it was clear that Cimarron Park wasn't the place for it.

“The park board facilitated a public process to hear from residents in the community, and their thoughts on the project,” said Barney. “Through that process we learned of opposition from those in the Cimarron area, and the board decided not to move forward with it at that location.”

In addition to withdrawing the proposal from Cimarron Park, Barney said they are also working with Cimarron residents to get input on what they would like to see improved at the park, and will be working with them to provide resources needed to improve and maintain the park.

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