Rene Cooper is one of the tenants at Riverview Mobile Home & RV Park. Like all the others, she received notice from the Colorado River Indian Tribes that the park would be closed at the end of February 2020. However, she wants to do something about it. One of her claims is the previous management and the Tribes knew the infrastructure of the park is in bad shape, and the Tribes were made aware of possible environmental violations. In spite of this, no actions were taken to remedy the situation.
“They knew it all and did nothing,” she said of the Tribes. “They watched it. They were part of it.”
Cooper said she has filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California environmental authorities. She noted the State of California has never formally recognized CRIT’s authority on the California side of the Colorado River.
A statement from the Tribes said the condition of the park was the responsibility of the lease holder. They added that they gave everyone six months to leave the park, even though they didn’t have to.
The previous lease holder, Steve Durand, and the former manager, John Thomas, both reached out to the Pioneer. They said the major problem was the infrastructure was old. Durand said he invested a lot of money in Riverview, and his request for a lease extension was rejected by the Tribes. Durand and Thomas both said they were unhappy with the current situation.
“I’m upset people are upset with me,” Durand said. “I got booted out, too.”
The lease for Riverview expired Aug. 31 and control reverted to the Tribes. A letter dated Aug. 30 was sent to all tenants. Signed by Tribal Chairman Dennis Patch, the letter states, “The Colorado River Indian Tribes has conducted a review of the Riverview Mobile Home Park and determined it is not economically feasible to operate and maintain the facility due to the age and condition of the facility’s infrastructure. Therefore, Riverview Mobile Home Park will be closed to all occupancy as of 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020.”
The letter goes on to state that tenants are still expected to pay their rent in a timely manner. They are also required to sign a special lease or face eviction proceedings.
Cooper said she and her husband, Danny Ingram, have seen little concern for them or the other tenants from the Tribes.
The infrastructure of the park and is old, and shows its lack of maintenance, Cooper said. She and Ingram said they regularly smell foul odors from failed septic systems. Ingram said the odors are “breathtaking” on some days, and the water smells bad.
One underground septic tank near their home was leaking with sewage going directly into the Colorado River. She said the Tribes’ Environmental Protection Organization was told about this.
Cooper said the holding ponds on the other side of Parker Dam Road from the park have not been maintained. They are overgrown with vegetation.
One of Cooper’s neighbors, Mike McCrary, showed the Pioneer the water filter on his home. It was black three weeks after being installed. He said he’s seen Tribal employees engage in improper testing procedures for drinking water.
McCrary said it looked like little work had been done on the water system in 40 years. He added that he knew what he was talking about as he built sewer and septic systems on the Navajo Nation Reservation.
Among the current problems is there is no management at the park.
“If something breaks, who do we call?” McCrary asked.
Cooper is now retired, but she was a legal researcher and developer for the Kenneth Miller Law Office in California. She also did contracted work for other law firms.
She is also a member of the Chickasaw Nation. The Chickasaws are one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” She said her tribe is very open about what they do. By contrast, she said CRIT hides everything.
Cooper said many of the tenants are elderly and don’t understand what is happening or contract law. She cited court cases where lease holders on tribal lands lost their lawsuits over the leases because the judge ruled they agreed to the tribe’s terms when they signed the lease. She many of the tenants at Riverview signed the special leases out of fear.
“They should be null and void,” she said.
Cooper said she and other tenants are planning legal action regarding the environmental violations and the evictions. In addition to the Pioneer, she said she has sent documentation to U.S. Sen. Kampala D. Harris, the Los Angeles Times, Arizona Capital Times, Cal- EPA and private parties. She said a letter in 2008 from Andrea Lynn Hoch, a legal secretary to then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, stated California’s official position that CRIT does not have jurisdiction over lands in California.
Among other things, Cooper said she and other tenants are seeking compensation for their moving costs and the loss of their units, which they say are now worthless.
“This isn’t over yet,” she said.