The town of Dinosaur's efforts to put an old school property to a new use have gotten a boost thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency last week said that Dinosaur was one of 149 communities that will share in EPA Brownfields grant awards totaling $64.6 million. The town is trying to convert what's called the Dinosaur School property to a community center.
Brownfields are properties where the presence of things such as pollutants and contaminants can complicate reuse or redevelopment. An assessment found metals, PCBs, inorganic materials and other contaminants at the Dinosaur site.
"There was some asbestos found in the building, some lead paint, stuff that they used back in the early '60s to build buildings with," said Linda Hedge, the assistant town clerk.
The 15,000-square-foot school was built in 1962. The nine-acre property also has a playground, baseball field, basketball and gym.
Hedge said the site was used as a school until the early 2000s, when the Moffat County School District closed it due to lack of funding. It later was operated for a time as a charter school, after which the property was donated to the town.
Hedge said that besides opening a community center at the school building, the site could be used for a small school, "but we're taking this a step at a time."
"… We don't have a school here in town and there are several families interested in having their kids stay in town instead of being bused to Rangely," she said.
She said there have been no discussions at this point with the school district about that possibility.
For now, the focus is on cleaning up the site with the EPA money and a matching 20 percent amount from the town.
After that, the town will be looking for additional grants to pay for building improvements such as new carpeting so the building can start to be used, benefiting populations such as seniors and children, she said.
Hedge said the town is excited about the EPA grant and the project.
"We think it can really be beneficial to our little community up here and hopefully we'll make it into something that will benefit everyone that lives here," she said.
Dinosaur is home to a few more than 300 residents.
"EPA Brownfields grants are helping Colorado communities address environmental hazards and create new amenities that bring people together," EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin said in a news release. "We look forward to the cleanup of the former Dinosaur School property and its revitalization as a much-needed community center."
The EPA says it's estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the county. The EPA Brownfields Program has resulted in more than 30,000 properties being assessed and more than 86,000 acres of idle land being made ready for use.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in the release that about 40 percent of the recently announced recipients are receiving Brownfields grants for the first time, which means the agency is reaching areas that may previously have been neglected.