Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 10:00 AM

Mrs. Betty Dick

Mrs. Betty H. Dick

Testimony

Before the Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Subcommittee on National Parks

United States Senate

Hearing on H.R. 432 and S. 584, a Private Bill to require the Secretary of Interior

to permit continued occupancy and use of certain lands and improvements within

Rocky Mountain National Park

Members of the Subcommittee on National Parks:

Thank you for your kind consideration of my plight. I am here to speak in

favor of H.R. 432 and/or S. 584 and to acquaint you with the reasons why you should

vote favorably on one of these pieces of legislation.

I am the widow of George F. Dick (known to his friends and family as Fred),

who died in 1992. I am 82 years old and, during the summer months, I live on a 20

acre parcel that is within the boundaries of the Rocky Mountain National Park.

This property was at one time owned by Fred and his former wife, Marilyn. In

settlement of Fred and Marilyn’s bitter divorce, Marilyn received the property and

Fred received a right of first refusal to buy it. Later, without giving Fred his right of

first refusal, Marilyn sold the property to the United States Government. When Fred

discovered that the property had been sold, he sued Marilyn and the Government,

demanding that he be given the right to buy the property under his right of first

refusal.

At some point in the middle of the litigation, I married Fred and so I became

an interested bystander to the fight and witnessed the events that I want to bring to

your attention.

It was after interminable depositions, hearings and the like, and thousands of

dollars spent on two law firms that Fred and I, without our lawyers, traveled to

Washington, D.C. in November 1979 to see if the case could be settled. In a meeting

with various officials representing the Department of Interior, it was agreed that the

case would be settled with Fred and I receiving a life estate in the property.

We were not mistaken in our understanding of the agreement reached in

Washington, D.C. with the Department of Interior in November 1979. Shortly after

the meeting, on November 26, 1979, the Associate Regional Director of Park

Operations at the Rocky Mountain National Park circulated a memo which recounted

the November meeting and specifically recited the Department of Interior’s

recommendation that we were to get a life estate to settle the case. This

memorandum, attached as Exhibit A, states as follows:

At this meeting, Mr. Kriz [a Department of Interior

official] suggested that from a technical land position, a

compromise whereby George and Betty Dick would obtain

a life estate on the house, surrounding outbuildings, and a

portion of the land seemed to be in order. . . . After

discussing this matter with Superintendent Brooks, we

concur with Mr. Kriz in the desirability of a life estate

compromise.

Papers were drawn to settle the case based upon the agreement that we would

have a life estate. Specifically, a Stipulation (Exhibit B) and a Judgment (Exhibit C)

were drawn which expressly stated that Fred and I would have a life estate on the

property.

But then the Government went back on its agreement that was made. In

August 1980, another set of draft settlement papers were received. Someone on the

Government’s side of the table changed the rights we were to receive from a life

estate to a term of 25 years. When Fred saw the change, he said that he was tired of

fighting this four year battle to retain the property and that, in any event, he would not

live another 25 years. So he signed it. This final settlement is attached as Exhibit D.

Fred was right about one thing. He would not live so long that there would be

a difference between a life estate and a term of 25 years. But I am still here and it

makes a difference to me.

At 82, I have a few years of life left. For the last 25 years, I been a good

neighbor to the Park and the employees who feel comfortable just dropping in for a

cup of coffee or to check on me. I have been heavily involved in the Grand Lake

community, making my home and grounds available for several organizations for

their summer picnics and cook-outs. I have served on the board of Rocky Mountain

Repertory Theater for over five years, two as president. I spent one full summer

raising $100,000 to purchase a cabin complex for housing college students who

perform each summer and thus bring a cultural aspect to the community. The Grand

Lake City Council is backing my request and I have huge support from the Grand

Lake community. As long as my health continues to be good, I intend to continue in

these community activities just as I have in the past. That, is, if I have my home to

live in.

I watched litigation that went on for too long and cost too much money. Then,

when we thought we had the matter settled, the Government changed the deal. At

that point, it was either spend more money on lawyers to fight the Government or take

what they would give us. Given that the Government could spend more money on

lawyers than we could, it was Fred’s decision to take what he could get even though

it was different from what had been agreed upon.

I respectfully ask the Subcommittee to consider the fairness the matter and to

give me what was agreed upon in November 1979.

I also ask the Subcommittee to note that I was a party to the settlement

originally made with the Government. But the settlement papers were only signed by

Fred. As a result, the contract I have with the Government has never been honored

and I have never agreed to any change. The Government’s obligation remains

outstanding that I receive a life estate in exchange for the money paid. The National

Park Service does not want to talk about that but I do.

One further thing: the Government’s contention that their hands are tied

because there was a court order is not true. The fact is that there was a settlement

between Fred and the Government, and the case was dismissed. There was no court

decree entered. If this matters, the facts ought to control.

I thank you for your consideration and I will respect whatever decision you

make.