VFW: Veterans Park not up for sale to City of Craig

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Quotable

“One of the things we do to benefit our organization is extend ourselves to the community and we have done more than our fair share to accommodate the city with their programs. Those days are over.”

— Mark Wick, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, on the organization’s decision not to sell its land to the City of Craig.

A day after receiving an offer from the City of Craig to buy land commonly known as Craig City Park, representatives of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 said Thursday the parcel is no longer for sale.

“We’re withdrawing the offer for sale. It’s no longer for sale to the City of Craig,” said Larry Neu, quartermaster of VFW Post 4265. “That doesn’t mean it’s not for sale, but it’s not for sale to the City of Craig.”

“For any money or any considerations, period,” Mark Wick, commander of VFW Post 4265, added.

Although Wick and Neu said they do not intend to sell the park — which the men said is actually Veterans Park, not City Park — to the city, they will not issue a formal response until after a VFW members meeting Nov. 21.

“The formal reply from the VFW to the city will come after our Nov. 21 meeting at which any members in good standing who want to have any input in this need to be at the meeting that night,” Neu said. “My recommendation to the membership is going to be to give the city the boot and take possession of the park and operate it the way we want to operate it.”

Veterans Park encompasses 2.88 acres of open space on both sides of Washington Street between the VFW’s post at 419 E. Victory Way and the Craig Swimming Complex. VFW also owns the commercial lot along East Victory Way where the Marcia Car currently resides.

Neu said the city has leased the land from the VFW since 1949. Since the lease expired in 2009, Neu said negotiations for a new agreement with the city have been less than cordial.

“The city’s lease with the VFW expired in 2009 and they did not exercise their option to renew it,” Neu said. “We just thought by offering it to them, it would avoid the issues and negotiations we ran in to.”

As part of the potential purchase process, Craig City Council hired Grand Junction-based Arnie Butler & Company to appraise VFW’s land. Dave Pike, director of Craig Parks and Recreation Department, and the VFW received the results of the appraisal Tuesday.

Upon review of the results, the city presented the VFW with an offer Wednesday to purchase the property for the appraised value of $25,500.

“The appraisal is an insult to our organization and every veteran that is a member of this post or any veteran,” Wick said.

But, Wick said the VFW is not necessarily angry about the results of the appraisal. However, he and Neu are displeased with a story in Wednesday’s Craig Daily Press about Tuesday night’s city council meeting, during which councilman Byron Willems implied that the VFW should have negotiated a new lease agreement with the city when it had the chance.

“The newspaper and the city council must think we’re stupid old men,” Wick said. “The amount of heat we’ve been getting about this, you might as well have called us a bunch of feeble idiots.”

Neu addressed Willems’ comments directly.

“My reply to Councilman Willems is the city’s best chances are behind them,” he said. “They are assuming they are in the driver’s seat, controlling this piece of property and that’s what we’re going to take away from them.”

Willems said Thursday he stands by his comments.

“I didn’t mean to offend them,” Willems said. “But, it is what it is.

“My intent was they had a better deal a year ago before we even started negotiating,” Willems said. “In the past, they have received free water, free sewer and free trash for a long, long time. In return, we take care of the park and the public gets to use it. That’s a smoking deal right now.”

Craig City Manager Jim Ferree said Thursday he is authorized by city council to present the offer and is not permitted to comment on the VFW’s decision.

Craig Mayor Terry Carwile could not be reached for immediate comment Thursday evening.

Wick said the spirit of the VFW is to better the community, and believes its past dealings with the city have been example of that philosophy.

“One of the things we do to benefit our organization is extend ourselves to the community, and we have done more than our fair share to accommodate the city with their programs,” Wick said. “Those days are over.

“The nice guy, the handshake and the good ‘ol boys are yesterday’s news.”

Wick said he feels the VFW has been “used and abused” by the city.

“We’re not stupid and we’re not going to play into this bully game,” Wick said. “The best way to describe the city is that they’re carpetbaggers coming in to take advantage of the poor downtrodden.

“We are not downtrodden, we are not financially strapped and we are not mentally incapable of making good decisions.”

Neu also questioned the accuracy of deed restrictions covered in the appraisal that say VFW’s land can only be open space.

“Yes, there are some restrictions on it, but those restrictions say we can use it for any purpose to benefit our organization,” Neu said. “If I have to plow it up and make a community garden out of it, I’ll do it. Community gardens are a popular thing around the country right now.”

Wick said rather than continue to work with the city, he’d rather sell the land to an oil and gas company and let it drill, or simply fence off the entire property.

“I can string barbed wire just as easy as I can sign a lease with (the city),” Wick said. “I’ll have blackberries growing out there by spring.”

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Comments

Tammy2 3 years, 1 month ago

Sticking it to the man is all good, but blocking off the park for public use is just as big of a dick move.

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citizensforgrowth 3 years, 1 month ago

If you have any concerns about the city councils ethics, just ask the county commissioners.Two peas in a pod probably, I know. I like the garden idea. A little tact from the city could go a long way. If they treat potential business this way I see why we dont have many.

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Colette Erickson 3 years, 1 month ago

When are the decision makers in this City/County going to start acting like adults?

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stelladams 3 years, 1 month ago

I have to agree with the VFW heads. Craig city council has a habit of these kinds of tatics. I think a community garden on half the property and a oil rig on the other side of the pool, would be a great learning tool for the children. IE: This just shows you how the government entities treat the peasants

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dkwaldo 3 years, 1 month ago

There's always two sides to every story. If the council offered more than the appraised value, they would be accused of irresponsible spending. I wonder what the VFW was expecting in an offer. Maybe they should get more than one appraisal.

I spent a lot of time at the park growing up. It seems like it should be worth more than 25k; however, the council has a fiduciary responsibility to spend money wisely. It seems their hands are tied with an appraisal of 25k in hand.

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Tammy2 3 years, 1 month ago

I agree with how the VFW responded except for the following: "Wick said rather than continue to work with the city, he’d rather sell the land to an oil and gas company and let it drill, or simply fence off the entire property."

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GreyStone 3 years, 1 month ago

A big red, white and blue pump jack sitting on the VFW property might be the best idea…oil is almost back up to $100 a barrel.

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Cory561156 3 years, 1 month ago

I want to know were I get that big of a chunck of land in town for that price thats one big load of crap I hope the VFW holds there ground and tells the city were to go and Willems water sewer and trash come on thats cheap rent I can see how this citys moron leaders like to screw every one over time after time

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selket42 3 years, 1 month ago

2.88 acres for $25,500? In town,???? I think the appraisal is a bit light. I don't blame the VFW for not going along with it, especially if they don't have to.

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truthhurts 3 years, 1 month ago

It is for open space meaning it it can't developed so $25,000 seems right. If it could be developed of course the value would be much higher. VFW has a right to do what they choose with the property but it sounds to me they got their little feelers hurt and our community will pay for it.

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xrsareus 3 years, 1 month ago

I feel the VFW property is worth a lot more than the appraised value. Opinions have been stated in public that maybe shouldn't have been from both sides. Since the VFW is not going to have their meeting on the 21'st, the statements made by the VFW seem like the idea's of 2 members that have a personal war with the city. In the city's defense, they have made the park the beautiful place it is today but are trying to push the purchase down the VFW's throat . I do not feel the VFW has the money or the resources to maintain their property and keep it as beautiful as it is. They city needs to also think about the loss of the property and what will happen to event's that take place there, Whittle the Wood comes to mind. But like many other events it could be held at Loudy Simpson if the county and city could get along. Maybe a private person could buy the property since the VFW did say they might sell, just not to the city, and then lease back to the city. Well, now we have more for the Kiwanis play this year... This could get interesting. Can't wait until after Nov. 21st and see if all members of the VFW feel the same as two.

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justmyview84 3 years, 1 month ago

I agree with the VFW, although I really hope they think about the public..mostly the kids who use the park. There isn't much to do in town for free as it is, taking away one of the most popular parks in town would really limit the options for activities for our kids. I grew up in the park, as did so many people in Craig. It'd be a sad thing to take it away from all of us just because the city council and VFW aren't getting along.

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native_craig_guy 3 years, 1 month ago

I think that both organizations should be ashamed of their actions. Granted the city missed the boat on contract negotiations (they were in the middle of arguing with another agency over leases.....) but the VFW shouldn't have been offended by the offer. If the VFW closes it off to the public that is their decision, not one I would make, but it is their decision none the less. The City of Craig has been bullying citizens for a while with permitting and land use issues as well as public works issues. I am glad that the VFW stood up to them, I just don't agree with the manner in which they did it.

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Andrew Russo 3 years, 1 month ago

The City vs, The VFW?

What a joke, that's two of a kind, a pair of jokers....

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Andrew Russo 3 years, 1 month ago

Colorado eminent domain laws can be found in Title 38 of Colorado revised statutes.

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Jon Pfeifer 3 years, 1 month ago

Look on realtor.com for land in the city of Craig. .2 acre lots are listed for $30,000. The city is being a bully, just as they were with the county during the public safety center ordeal. Even with deed restrictions, some of this land is zoned commercial and apparently the VFW can use it to further their mission. So it is worth much more than $25,000 to them. Fortunately the VFW has other options, including simply not allowing the city access. If the city of Craig loses half of City Park because of the city council's ridiculous "negotiations" I hope the city of Craig remembers to vote each council member out of office. I'm with the Veterans.

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Shaun Hadley 3 years, 1 month ago

It seems like everyone is missing the point here - The VFW is not upset at the offer from the city - They simply turned it down and wished to negotiate furher - That is, until "Incumbent" Councilor Willems opened his mouth and started throwing in his opinion. The VFW folks are upset that Willems spoke of them like they were old idiots. This is just another action in a long list of dumb moves by this councilor that has cost this city money, time and relationships. Just think, with one City Council meeting, Willems inability to keep his trap shut may have cost the Entire City Of Craig one of our best events - Widdle The Wood may be a thing of the past thanks to this joke of a Councilman.

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thirdgenerationinCraig 3 years, 1 month ago

I am so disappointed the VFW is putting such a phenomenal community asset at risk. This land was DONATED to the VFW with the caveat that it be maintained as open space for the benefit of the community. For the past 60 years, the city of Craig has invested heavily (water, mowing, cleaning, trash removal, etc.) to make this park a wonderful addition to our city used by thousands. That's not even mentioning the statues left from Whittle the Wood that makes our city park so unique. There is no way the VFW could maintain it to this degree. And, to threaten to turn our community asset into an oil field should be an affront to every single Craig resident. If the city hadn't taken care of and developed that park, what would it be today? An open field of weeds? Our tax dollars will be flushed right down the drain if the VFW maintains its hard-headed stance. Did I also read right that the city has waived the VFWs water, sewer and trash fees for their Post? This is an awful way to say thank you for all the city has done for the VFW and for the residents who use and enjoy the City Park. Veterans, if it's your mission to better the community as you said, sacrificing a community asset for pride isn't the way to do it.

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HopeforMOCO 3 years, 1 month ago

I just wanted to say thank you to all the veterans for your service this Veterans Day. We appreciate the sacrifices you have a made for our freedom. I’m concerned about the threat to close the park. I know the Women’s Civic club deeded the property to the VFW for about $10 to oversee the property as a public park. I don’t believe their intent was for the VFW to make a large profit on the property. The City has maintained it well. It’s a great asset for the whole community. Which bodes well for the VFW as owners and overseers of the property. As a community member I appreciate all the ways the VFW supports and sponsors our community. Let’s not let pride get in the way of what best for our home. God bless you all this Veterans Day and thank you!

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Andrew Russo 3 years, 1 month ago

"Look on realtor.com for land in the city of Craig."

And make sure it can't be developed,,,,,

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Colette Erickson 3 years, 1 month ago

"thirdgenerationCraig", well said and probably the most valid and best articulated points expressed herein. VFW, please take note. Can everyone act as adults? PLEASE, this is not a "pissing contest"!

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unbelievable6060 3 years, 1 month ago

As I was reading all of the comments, the only one that described my personal thoughts was by "thirdgenerationCraig". Great job and well said!

We all need to remember, this "fight" between the VFW and the City of Craig (City Counsel) will end up having a major negative impact on the town we all love, no matter who is right or wrong. The way it sounds now, without further negotiations, the outcome is going to take away the park as we know it. What a shame to take away the pool for the kids & adults during the summer, swimming competitions, picnics, Whittle the Wood, any other type of events which may be held there. The park is a huge asset to our little town and it is a place people enjoy going back to time and time again. Can you really envision an oil well or even a fence keeping everyone out of that area put up?

The way I see it is the VFW and City Council needs to be able to go to the negotiations table and discuss what both sides are looking for and be able to come to a compromise for the good of Craig. I believe both entities want what is best for our community and the residents who live here.

I really hope both the VFW and the City Council members will be able to put the residents/visitors first and not their own personal agendas.

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lostyermarbles 3 years, 1 month ago

Well I agree with the VFW but, why has this gone so far that the signs say City Park?? Why hasn't it been named correctly after all this time. Now all the whittle the wood stuff is in there. Why aren't they down at Loudy?? VFW should do like Wyman and do their own thing. Have Whittle the wood there on VFW's terms and act like they own it instead of waiting until they act like they own it with signs and what not. Come on Boy's, you know how to win the war!! And yes, the City is shameful for it's action's after all the stupid stuff they do sometimes, or DON't do too...Yes they might be bound but they charge at the pool, they have lawnpeople. Sell the Marcia car place to the town or charge rent there, where else would they put it?? Have concerts, oh but the City would put the cobash on it beings it is not there's. There should be something to bring money. Or, just put it in a "green" eco park and don't mow..Put a exhibit of some kind.

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HopeforMOCO 3 years, 1 month ago

Hi Ranger520, Just to be clear the land doesn’t include the pools or the North side of the park. The deed says for a public park and also that they can use part of it as a home for their club (the lodge). It wasn’t a park until after the deed I believe and the City developed the land into a park and maintained it since. Whittle the Wood would cost a fortune for the VFW to put on itself. The City puts it on as a public service. No money to be made. I know there are good and fair people on both sides, so I hope they will come together to do what is best for Craig as a whole.

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