Lake Fork is Full of Pride
by Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today contributor
The first ever Lake Fork Pride BBQ was held last Tuesday, July 26, in the Lake Fork Manufactured Home Community at 150 State Highway 300. The park is just south of Leadville and Stringtown on the way to Halfmoon Creek, and home to over 100 Lake County families. The free BBQ, championed by resident Amy Small, was a successful attempt to provide continuous character-building activities for the kids of Lake Fork, and an open discussion space for adults to voice their concerns and ideas about making Lake Fork a better place to live.
Lake Fork is owned by property management company Ascentia, and managed by Lee Rager. Privileged in location and view, the park sits in the shadow of Mt.’s Elbert and Massive, the open Arkansas Valley laid out at its foot. Most families that live in Lake Fork are Hispanic and have several children between the ages of six and fifteen, most of which enrolled in the Lake County School District.
After a bullying problem became apparent among the children, and other adult concerns talked about but never forwardly handled, Amy Small decided to take the high road and engage both the children and adults of the community in an alternative and positive way. Picking up a pen and paper Small began to piece together a BBQ to spotlight the community and provide avenues to voice and solve the concerns of her neighbors.
Representatives from Full Circle of Lake County, Project Dream, Sol Vista Health, St. Vincent’s Hospital, and the Fire Department all showed up for burgers and dogs, and on a volunteer basis met with and made themselves available to the people of Lake Fork. Firetrucks and Ambulance’s were open for kids to explore, while the first responders taught about what they do.
After everyone ate, the children went off with volunteers Dawn Penso and Jena Finch of Project Dream to talk about the Seven Principles. These were drawn up by Small as guidelines for respectful living, and as a way to earn Lake Fork Dollars, a local currency for which the children earn rewards year-round. The Seven Principles are:
- Play Nicely
- Be Respectful
- Help Others
- Perform Good Deeds
- Clean Up
- Practice Good Behavior
Meanwhile the adults had their meeting, discussing everything from four-wheeler’s, to babysitting, to establishing neighborhood watch and safe houses.
Small is from Long Beach, Cali., no stranger to neglected communities. “I was twelve years old when the Rodney King riots broke out,” Small said, “and that experience was very real for me. After leaving there, I knew I never wanted my children to grow up in an environment like that.
Small also had a few things to say about the way outreach programs are often operated. “When I was growing up, whether Boys & Girls Club of America or other outreach programs, they took us out of our neighborhood to do really fun incredible things, but we always had to go back home at the end of the day. They never initiated change from within our community, made us appreciate what we already had.”
Nothing worth doing is ever easy, and its always easier to complain and point the finger. Small had to stick with her convictions to make the event happen, and in the matter of a just a few weeks. With great help from park manager Rager, from neighbors, the program representatives, and the kids themselves, the BBQ had an incredible turnout with every intention of the event fulfilled.
“My goal was already achieved before the BBQ even took place,” Amy said. She’s seen the kids already practicing the 7 Principles, helping each other, volunteering, cleaning up, and settling their disputes peacefully. “My vision is for other neighborhoods to have similar events, and that all the communities here can come together for healthy competition in games and forward-thinking problem solving.”
These are the kind of organic plans that render change from within. They don’t rely on rescue or grant dollars; Lake Fork already has all the tools it needs to become an even better place to live.
Brennan Ruegg lives down the way from Lake Fork, near Halfmoon Creek.