Ministry seeks to rehab convicts locally
Plan to purchase 525 acres south of Ignacio draws criticism

Christlife Ministries is currently working to buy and relocate to a 525-acre La Plata County ranch. However, the group’s vision of rehabilitating former criminals on the land south of Ignacio has drawn fire from concerned citizens. Negotiations to buy the property have become delicate, and La Plata County officials have alerted the ministry that, if the ranch is bought, the group will have to obtain a permit for such its activities.

Christlife Ministries is a recently formed, nondenominational ministry based in Aurora. The group’s primary plan is to work to return ex-offenders and their families to normal places in society. Pastor Jerome Perkins, Christlife Ministries’ director, said the group has no illusions about rehabilitating all ex-convicts. Instead, Christlife Ministries plans to minister to criminals who have pronounced a Christian faith.

“We know we’re not going to be able to touch the majority of people,” Perkins said. “We’re targeting people who’ve gone through halfway house programs and are still stumbling. They’re still hanging on, and they need someone to give them the opportunity to go the next step.”

Perkins said he hopes to provide this opportunity on the 525-acre Big Elk Meadows Ranch between Ignacio and Arboles in southeastern La Plata County. He had entered negotiations with the ranch’s owner to buy the ranch for $5 million, and Christlife Ministries was going to lease the property beginning Feb. 1 for one year while funds were being raised. There also were plans to have the first of up to 12 ex-offenders and their families on-site by April 1.

However, neighborhood opposition and the group’s lack of a La Plata County permit stalled the ministry’s plans and threatened to derail negotiations.

“We’ve gotten a whole bunch of calls from concerned people, and our code enforcement staff has been speaking with the ministry,” said Joe Crain, director of La Plata County planning services.

Crain added that the county would allow the ministry to have up to two families, ex-offenders or not, living on the property before it would be required to get a permit.

“We would no longer look at it as a ranch operation at that point,” he said. “They seem agreeable to it from what I understand.”

The ministry would then have to go through the public review process before being granted the permit.

Perkins said that his group wants to be as up front as possible and stressed that he’s not trying to do anything “sneaky.” He added that Christlife Ministries wants to address local concerns. “If people need to talk with us, we wish they would,” he said. “Right now, they’re holding meetings on us without us.”

Because of the opposition, Perkins said that the seller is getting cold feet. “Right now, we’re in limbo,” he said. “I’m not sure if we’re moving there or not. This could wind up being in a whole different part of the state.”

Perkins concluded by saying that the ministry could bring a great deal of revenue to the community and stressed that it has noble intentions.

“These people owe a debt to society,” he said. “We want them to know that society took care of them when they were behind bars. Here’s a place where they can pay back society.”

Whether the ex-offenders will pay back society south of Ignacio or elsewhere in the state now rests in the hands of the current owner of Big Elk Meadows Ranch.







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