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Historic School Will transition to Chaffee County Valley View Learning Center

The Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) unanimously approved a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with  Salida area Parks, Open-space & Trails  (SPOT) for the rehabilitation of the historic Valley View School during their May 10 regular meeting. The MOU designates that the restoration will turn the historic school into what will become known as the Chaffee County Valley View Learning Center.

The protection and renovation of the historic one-room school house located on CR 140 (Airport Road) between Salida and Poncha Springs has been years in the making. Located about two miles west of Salida, it was built in 1903. Built in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The parcel containing the school building was purchased and donated for preservation by the Richardson family. It happens to contains an irrigation ditch for Richardson’s surrounding agricultural land. Protecting that ditch was one of the conditions of its donation years ago, and working out protections for the ditch right has to be part of the project work.

The $374,155 renovation project is partially funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). Donna Rhoads, speaking on behalf of SPOT explained that the MOU for $125,000 between DOLA and Chaffee County is the base match for $249,155 of a local match from the county and its municipalities to fund the renovation work.

“We met with Gary Greiner and Tracy Vandaveer and we figured out where the septic should be,” she explained [Vandaveer] is engineering the parking and driveway.” The site has one special factor which has been part of the delay in how to approach renovation. “We’ve got a ditch – the idea is to move it up the hill.”

Commissioner Greg Felt, mindful of the past controversy about the preservation of the ditch expressed some skepticism that the agricultural ditch path could be moved so easily but was assured that this would not hold up the work and that Vandaveer would work directly with the Richardson family regarding the ditch.

Rhoads did express concerns about the county road, saying “It’s narrow and steep to the west and people come over that rise fast” just above the driveway. Given the site’s future role as a learning center, and the presence of children, she asked whether the county would be addressing the safety issues. Chaffee County Director of General Administration Bob Christiansen assured her that roadwork will be  planned to make the road safer.

The project will be put out to bid immediately,

The DOLA grant award specifics that the work must be complete by Dec. 31, 2023. The final report will be due to DOLA by March 31, 2024.