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Polston to be appraised for sale

Posted: Wednesday, Oct 3rd, 2012

Eight Guatemalan families grew traditional crops on the former Polston Elementary School property this summer. The San Luis Valley Food Coalition and the Trust for Public Lands are working with the Alamosa School District to explore possibilities for a healthy living park that would include community gardens on the now vacant lot. Courier file photo by Lauren Krizansky

Courier staff writer

ALAMOSA — Before the former Polston Elementary School property is sold, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) wants to know what it is worth, and a potential buyer is moving the process right along.

On Monday night during its regular meeting, the ABOE unanimously agreed to split the costs of a property appraisal with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a California-based non-profit public benefit corporation. The entities will split the $3,000 fee fifty-fifty and Tim Walters, of Walter Mullins Valuation Consultants, will provide the service. According to the appraisal payment agreement, the appraisal will be used for negotiation purposes between the buyer and the seller through a future option agreement. Walters would then conduct the final appraisal to establish the fair property market value.

Walters conducted the last property appraisal in September 2007 when the elementary building was still standing on the corner of Highway 17 and Highway 160. It was appraised at $1,150,00 and the amount reflects the property and the now demolished building, but it does not include the water rights associated with the property.

“They (TPL) is interested in the Polston property,” Alejo explained to the ABOE. “They would like to have a better idea of what it is worth. I think we would like to have a better idea.”

The San Luis Valley Food Coalition brought the idea of the Rio Grande Healthy Living Park to the ABOE earlier this year and contacted the TPL to help make their vision a reality.

The park plans are based on similar projects in the state and nationwide. Since it sits on the edge of the Alamosa Ranch, the park would provide access to the ranch via bike and walking trails. It would also potentially include quarter acre farm plots to encourage new farmer development; community gardens and greenhouses; a multi-purpose building with possible kitchen space, classrooms and a food distribution warehouse; outdoor events space; amphitheater; theme gardens; outdoor classroom space; picnic tables; a wetlands preservation site; a traditional water uses education site; a Sites of the San Luis Valley playground; and exercise stations.

Plans also include a food hub, a place where local producers can distribute their products. The project would look to work with United States Department of Agriculture food hub grant programs in the future to fund such endeavors. Today, there are around 35 recognized food hubs in the nation providing local farmers a reliable market.

This summer, the ABOE and the coalition made it possible for eight Guatemalan families to farm a parcel of the land during challenging economic times. Their success demonstrated the land’s potential for larger agricultural endeavors.

In June, Alamosa Board of Education President Bill Van Geison signed a letter of intent on behalf of the district to explore selling the former Polston Elementary property to The Trust for Public Land (TPL) for the park.

TPL is a national non-profit conservation organization that assists with the land and funding acquisition to ensure that everyone, in particular, every child, lives within a ten-minute walk to a park, garden, playground or protected natural area. The trust will also help with fund-raising efforts and, once the property is deeded over, TPL will help facilitate a formal community planning process.

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