Trailers for sale or rent? Residents worry over park’s uncertain future |

Trailers for sale or rent? Residents worry over park’s uncertain future

— The pride that Matt Mraz takes in his home is evident from the spotless new Pergo flooring, the hand-troweled plaster walls and the new Formica on the breakfast bar he built himself. But Mraz is afraid he’s about to lose it all.

Mraz, a local carpenter, is living with uncertainty about the future of his mobile home in the Trailer Haven trailer park, and the money he has invested in it. Steamboat Springs Health and Recreation is set to close on its purchase of the trailer park at the end of the month. Among the options it’s considering is replacing the trailer park with a parking lot.

Nobody has said for sure, but many of the owners of the 12 homes in Trailer Haven fear they’ll be forced to move their homes, probably at a net loss in value. They might even have to pay to have them hauled to the landfill.

“My savings, that I’ve had forever, I put into this place,” Mraz said. “We’re afraid we can’t move them, or that we won’t have anywhere to go.”

The trailer park is located at 224 Oak St., roughly behind the Health and Recreation Association’s present downtown location. Of the 12 homes in the park, including 10 trailers and two cabins, all but one of them are occupied. The mobile home owners pay $250 monthly rent for their lots. That also covers snowplowing and trash removal.

Mraz has lived at Trailer Haven for more than six years, five of those in a different trailer. He bought his current home about 18 months ago. Hoping that he could build up enough equity to someday purchase a traditional single family home, he remodeled much of the interior last year. The improvements include the new flooring, a new kitchen and appliances. He says the 1973 trailer, which is wider than most of its neighbors at 14 feet, appraised at $27,400. He still owes the bank $5,000.

Mraz is concerned he won’t be able to recoup his investment, let alone trade up to a larger home. Other mobile home parks in Steamboat are full. He called the Lamplighter trailer park in Craig and found out they don’t have any spaces available. If they did, he estimates it would cost him $2,000 to $3,000 to move his trailer to Craig. Moving the trailer and then selling it was one option he considered, but he found out mobile homes in Craig sell for about $10,000.

To make matters worse, he doesn’t think any lending institution would loan money to a prospective buyer to purchase his trailer. Sitting on its site in Steamboat, the trailer is at its maximum value, but its future is too uncertain. And the month-to-month lease he signed with landlords Dave and Sue Oakley doesn’t make it any more secure.

“We’re in a bind, all of us,” Mraz said.

Sue Oakley said this week that she and her husband purchased the trailer park in 1988, intending to keep it for 10 years. She agreed that investing in mobile homes can be precarious for homeowners, in the event they have to move.

“We’ve always said since we bought it that we would keep it for 10 years and we’ve had it for 12,” Oakley said. “It is a precarious situation, but it’s certainly not a surprise to any of (the owners at Trailer Haven). We’ve had rentals our whole married life — 25 years — and wanted to do something else. We’ve tried to be good landlords. It requires compassion and caring.”

Oakley said she knows from experience it is possible to move the trailers. On one occasion, they moved a trailer that was abandoned.

“We removed the skirt, filled the tires and pulled it right to the impound lot. It can be moved… it’s certainly not easy,” Oakley said.

A spokesperson for the Health and Recreation Association said this week that her organization isn’t indifferent to the situation of the homeowners.

President Jill Leary said Health and Recreation Association board members plan to meet with Trailer Haven residents this spring to talk about their future plans for the property. Leary said the board intends to discuss the future use of the property at its next meeting in May, then arrange a meeting with the residents to discuss options.

“We’re real sensitive to the human issues,” Leary said. “We certainly don’t want to kick anybody out of their homes.”

Robert Davidson has lived at No. 3 Trailer Haven for 18 years. His clean home is cozy and warm. He says the neighborhood is quieter than it was a year ago, before the new Hilltop Parkway siphoned off some of the traffic that comes down Fish Creek Falls Road in the mornings.

Davidson is concerned that if he has to move, he’ll have to leave Steamboat and move “to the other side of Craig.”

“I’ve heard a lot of things,” Davidson said. “If they build a parking lot, it will mean more people. It will get crowded over there. There’s not enough room and they might have to move. They’d be running us out for nothing.”

Health and Recreation Manager Pat Carney said there has never been a plan to acquire the property.

“We’re growing and this is a neighboring property that came up for sale,” Carney said. “It was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”

Carney said the Health and Recreation Board will not speculate about how long the trailer park will remain in its current use.

Mraz said it’s doubtful that all of the mobile homes in Trailer Haven are fit to be moved. His 1973 model is one of the newest. But others have been on the site since the ’50s and ’60s. In the case of some trailer parks, new neighborhood covenants prohibit the older trailers from moving in.

Mraz said he’s been told Trailer Haven has existed in roughly its current use for 45 years. Back in 1955 he said, it was used as an overnight campground.

Rob Rowe, a heating technician, has owned his mobile home for three years, but says he would never purchase another. He said he talked to a lawyer and learned his situation is essentially hopeless. He paid $19,000 for his home and says it appraised at $23,000. He still owes $5,000 on his purchase. He said he’s decided his best option is to move in with a friend and rent out his trailer to generate some cash flow.

“That’s the only thing I can do,” Rowe said. “I’m going to have to pay to rip it down.”

Werner Ryan, a roofer, has owned his mobile home at Trailer Haven for just two years. He would like to hear from the Health and Recreation Board sooner than sometime in May.

“They said they would keep us posted,” Ryan said. “We’ve been totally uninformed.”

Ryan said he won’t wait around for the final disposition of the trailer park before he acts on a plan. His current home at Trailer Haven is valued at $20,000. He’s looking at purchasing another mobile home in the West Acres trailer park where he believes his investment would be more secure. He plans to rent his current home to help defray the cost of the new home. He might suffer a net loss in the transaction, but at least his situation will be more certain.

Ryan added that if he could continue renting his trailer for another four years, he “would not be sad” to walk away from Trailer Haven.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4210, or e-mail

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