In June 2020, residents of the former Rockin’ H Mobile Home Park in Victor got an eviction notice from the park’s new owner: The Teton Valley Resort. Over the course of the next year, most of the tenants left—all but one family, who stayed in their trailer even as construction on the resort’s expansion started around them. KHOL’s Kyle Mackie spoke with High Country News reporter Nick Bowlin about his recent story, “Vacation resort replaces affordable housing in Teton Valley,” to get the latest.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
KYLE MACKIE/KHOL: Nick Bowlin, thank you so much for joining us today on KHOL.
NICK BOWLIN: Thanks for having me.
KHOL: Can you tell us about the Hidalgo family, who are the main characters in your story?
BOWLIN: Sure. So, the Hidalgo family have lived in Victor for about 20 years—basically, all of that time in what was the Rockin’ H Mobile Home Park. And the Hidalgo family has been in an extended legal fight over this eviction proceedings with the owners of the park for more than a year now. And you know, they work in Jackson, they live in Victor and they, at least in my story, were kind of interesting because they represented so much of the housing crisis that’s spilled over into Teton Valley because, you know, for most of their time there, they had this affordable place to live and that’s no longer the case.
KHOL: So, I wonder if you can tell me—this story was so striking because the Hidalgo family became the only tenants to stay in their trailer after the eviction notices had been served. What did they tell you about their decision to stay, even as all of their neighbors were leaving?
BOWLIN: Well, part of it was about this lawsuit that their claims were that they faced unlawful harassment and kind of other actions from the resort as they were attempting to evict the family and the other residents of the park. But some of it, you know—I talked to Mario Hidalgo—was simply necessity. Like, they had a hard time finding other places to go. As of this summer, they’ve left the park. There’s a settlement in the works between the family and the park, and they ended up moving into a townhome in Driggs. And their trailer park lot fees was about $500 a month. So, they own[ed] the trailer [and] they paid for a place for it to go. And their new townhome, their kids help out with some of the rent so they make it work, but the rent is $2,300 [per month], so just an enormous increase. And that was, according to them, the cheapest place they could find.
KHOL: I was going to ask you about the latest in the legal battles. You mentioned that they’re in the process of a settlement with the resort. I understand there’s also another ongoing lawsuit between the Hidalgo family and a few other former tenants and the resort. Can you tell us about that?
BOWLIN: As of right now, they were in kind of final stages of a potential settlement, so neither side can say all that much publicly under these terms.* But then there’s a separate active complaint that alleges racial discrimination. All of the mobile home park tenants are Latino, and then [it also alleges] unlawful evictions. That was filed on behalf of the Hidalgo family and then three other families. That’s currently being considered by HUD, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
KHOL: And as far as speaking publicly, you have talked to the new owner of Teton Valley Resort in your reporting. Can you tell me about what his response has been? What is he saying about this situation?
BOWLIN: Sure. So, yeah, I mean, Randy Larsen has said that he, you know, he has the legal right to develop this resort, which is true. [He’s saying] that they purchased this tract of land and they want to convert it to RV spots. And he has said that a lot of these incidents are misunderstandings, that what the family took as harassment was just kind of normal construction. And he had talked pretty openly that he recognizes that there is a housing crisis. And he says that he provides rentals in cabins or uses those RV spots to house seasonal employees at Jackson Hole and some of the other ski resorts during the winter. So, he has kind of chalked a lot of it up to a misunderstanding and also said the family’s been kind of intransigent and has refused to get out. And at a point this summer, he said that they were squatting because their lease was up by then and so that even though they were trying to pay rent, it was illegitimate.
KHOL: Now, this is obviously just one example of a loss of some affordable housing to make way for either tourism or luxury development, and we see this happening all across the Mountain West. I wonder from your perspective as a regional reporter how this situation kind of fit in for you. What are your reflections on that?
BOWLIN: Oh yeah, I mean, I live in a—I would say—kind of equivalent of like a Victor or Driggs of a ski town in Colorado, which is how I got into kind of covering this stuff. And in a lot of mountain counties in Colorado, they’ve all set housing market records in the past 18 months. It really does kind of seem like the issue of the moment in the Mountain West. And, you know, it’s just continuing. I saw this morning in The Wall Street Journal the co-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers bought thousands of acres and a giant ranch house in Teton Valley this week, so it doesn’t seem like this is going anywhere.
KHOL: Alright, well, Nick, thank you so much for your reporting and once again for joining us today on KHOL.
BOWLIN: Yeah, thanks for having me.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: On Dec. 14, General Manager Vanessa Larsen of Teton Valley Resort informed KHOL that the resort recently reached a settlement with the Hidalgo family. She also said there are no other pending lawsuits against the resort. The headline of this story has been updated accordingly.