Duroville Residents Fear Park Closure

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Nicole C. Brambilla
Desert Sun

Ana Delia Argueta didn't have anywhere to go.

"I came crying," the 52-year-old said of her move to Duroville about seven years ago.

Now she's afraid she'll be left without a home if a federal judge shutter the Thermal park on Monday.

Since 2003, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has attempted to shut down the park, owned by Harvey Duro.

Arturo Rodriguez, a California Rural Legal Assistance attorney who petitioned the judge for a park receiver, gave Duroville residents a status update on the case Tuesday. More than 70 farmworkers and their families attended.

"The vast majority of the people that live there want to continue to live there and they want the conditions to get better," said Rodriguez, who represents four residents.

U.S. District Court Stephen G. Larson appointed a study group to look into solutions at the park and make a recommendation to the court.

As reported earlier on mydesert.com, an independent report found the park's drinking water safe.

The court-appointed study group recommends the dilapidated mobile home park on the Torres-Martinez reservation remain open, under federal supervision. U.S. attorneys favor shuttering the park within 120 days when occupancy is low during the summer months.

Duro, who the owns the allotment for Duroville, favors either shutting down the park or remain open, provided he is paid $7,000 a month and back rent from tenants, court documents show.

The judge is expected to make a ruling on Monday.

County officials estimate an immediate shutdown would create mass homelessness and an economic disaster that could cost $40 million.

The Coachella Housing Coalition estimates more than 10,000 people are waiting on affordable housing lists.

"The county has done a hell of a job building public housing, but the list grows faster than they're able to build," said Tom Flynn, who is working with Adams to address safety issues at Duroville.

Depending on the season, an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 predominantly migrant farmworkers and their children live in squalor in dilapidated mobile homes 14 miles southeast of Indian Wells on the Torres-Martinez reservation.

Locally, farmworkers are the backbone of a $500 million agribusiness and earn about $15,000 a year.

The park emerged in 1999 after a county crackdown on more than 200 illegal trailer parks following the electrocution death of a 14-year-old Mecca boy. Fearing eviction, many fled onto Indian land, where county building and safety codes have not applied.

Read more about the improvements at Duroville and study group's report in Thursday's Desert Sun.

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