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Central community rallies to support displaced residents at Shady Brook

May 12, 2016

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Shady Brook mobile home park, commonly known as Shady Acres, is in the process of being purchased by Kittitas County, a move that has created backlash from the community.

Residents of Shady Brook have received a large amount of support from community members and Central faculty and students as they fight against the possibility of eviction.

Over the past three weeks, Mark Auslander, associate professor of anthropology at Central has helped to unite the community and find legal defense for the residents.

The Kittitas County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a purchase agreement for the park on April 18. A Daily Record article, published the next day was the first time many of the residents had heard of the purchase.

Auslander lead a community meeting the following week to inform the residents and form a plan moving forward.

“We’re hoping that everybody will work together on this,” he said “we’d love to see the [university] play a creative role in this.”

The mobile home park has been part of the long-term plan for the Kittitas Valley Event Center. The landowner and county have been negotiating for the purchase over the past year, said county commissioners.

The purchase agreement will eventually displace nearly 60 adults and 60 children, according to a community census. The mobile home park is located southeast of Central, and houses mainly Latino families.

Additionally Auslander assisted residents in forming a homeowner’s association and introduced them to lawyers who will provide free legal support moving forward.  

Residents received their first official notice of this purchase May 2 through a letter, hand-delivered by County Commissioner Paul Jewell two weeks after the purchase approval.

The letter, written in English and Spanish, assured residents nothing will immediately happen to their homes and no decision had yet been made on when Shady Brook would close.

Dozens of community members then attended a county commissioners meeting on May 3 and spoke out against the repurposing of the property.

Residents, community members and Central students and faculty attended the meeting to voice their opinions to the county commissioners.

Auslander urged the County to withdraw from the purchase agreement and said he felt what the County was doing was not ethical and could face many legal challenges.

“Why don’t we work together productively to come up with a workable public private partnership that secures the safe future of the Shady Acres community?” he said, “Let’s create an affordable housing initiative.”

Additionally, Central students attended the meeting and spoke on behalf of the residents.

Meghan Johnson, a sophomore public health major at Central, said she felt it was wrong to evict the current residents for additional RV parking.

“I love the rodeo,” she said, “but I would never ever dislocate families, especially families with children … I can’t comprehend how we can sit here and say that this is OK.”

Erika King, a student at Central, said she wants the County to assist the residents who live on the property and asked the Commissioners to do the right thing and not destroy a community of hardworking people.

“Shady acres is not just a property it’s not just land, it’s a community,” she said. “This is not only costly but degrading, and not something anyone should experience.”

Central students and professors have gotten to know the Shady Brook community through exhibition of Mexican folk art at Central’s Museum of Culture & Environment, Auslander said.

Auslander said he may bring this issue to the faculty senate and call for support.

“The university has to be careful and not get involved in internal political dispute,” he said, “I think everybody would be thrilled to offer our services but ultimately it’s a presidential decision.”

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