Community Action for a Renewed Environment
Leah Opitz, Coordinator and Researcher
The San Luis Valley Ecosystem Council was awarded a $93,000 grant by the EPA in 2010 to begin a CARE project. The Community Action for a Renewed Environment project is a way for San Luis Valley communities to organize and take action to reduce our exposures to harmful environmental pollutants. We have organized a great steering committee that has helped us design our project thus far. The steering committee consists of public health nurses from around the San Luis Valley, Dr. Garcia from the Rocky Mountain Prevention Research Center, CSU Cooperative Extension service, and community members. Our advisors are Dr. Garcia and Dr. Brinton, former regional epidemiologist. From Costilla County, there are three tremendous representatives that have participated with CARE: Vivian Gallegos, Maryanne Martinez, and Teresa Vigil.
In order for our CARE team to determine which environmental health hazard to address through CARE, we decided that we needed to ask community members what they thought about the environmental health of the Valley. We have just completed a community forum tour of the entire Valley. We held 13 community forums, including two in Costilla County; one in San Luis and one in Blanca. Below are the issues that folks spoke to us about at these meetings:
Although all of these issues are very important, the goal of CARE is to develop a project that will benefit the entire Valley. Some of the issues listed above are local issues and some are issues that we have heard multiple times around the Valley, such as illegal dumping, water quality, and air quality.
We have had 105 participants total, but only 8 were from Costilla County. Although we wish the turnout would have been greater in Costilla County, the people who did participate gave us some great information that we feel is a good representation of the county as a whole. We are going to do another round of community forums again in the Spring and we plan on spending the Winter doing more outreach in your county, starting with you, the County Commissioners!