Every fall since 1923, hordes of people enter the Kittitas County Fairgrounds in the town of Ellensburg to watch bulls toss riders off their backs and cowboys wrestle steers to the ground.
Just a block away is a 3.5-acre plot of land that could someday add value to the annual rodeo and county fair, the biggest attractions in this agricultural and college town east of the Cascade Mountains. The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners purchased the plot in September for $1.45 million with a plan to convert it into an RV park for visitors.
But to execute that vision, county commissioners will ultimately need to evict about 100 people — including 50 children — who live in the skinny, rundown mobile homes that constitute the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park.
The land sale launched a protracted standoff between Shady Brook’s residents, who are low-income and mostly Latino, and county officials who appear to have misjudged the residents’ ability to fight back.
Shady Brook’s residents responded to the prospect of losing their biggest investment — mobile homes, many of which are too old to survive a tow to a different park — by forming a homeowners association and hiring attorneys to represent them as a group. Now they are prepared to file a lawsuit to keep their community intact.
Meanwhile, county officials are facing questions over how they intend to help Shady Brook residents relocate in an area that suffers from a shortage of affordable housing.
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