EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of an ongoing series spotlighting different neighborhoods in Denton. The stories by journalism students are part of an ongoing partnership between the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas and the Denton Record-Chronicle.
On a Friday evening after work, Nanci Good takes her two rescue dogs, Lilly and D-o-g, for a walk around the paved jogging path in her neighborhood. A cool breeze blows through the tall oak trees surrounding the narrow trail that winds around a 7-acre lake stocked for fishing.
Good, dressed casually in a plain black T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, makes the same walk every morning and evening to enjoy the quiet peace of Lakewood Estates, just off Teasley Lane in south Denton. She flashes a warm smile and says the neighborhood reminds her of country living: In the spring time, ducks fill the pond, and on clear nights she can see the stars from the porch of her mobile home.
When the Goods moved to Lakewood Estates, they were aware of the biases some people held toward their new home. For years, popular shows like Trailer Park Boys and My Name is Earl have derived their humor from holding trailer parks up to ridicule. The shows are full of characters that embody many stereotypes, from rednecks to ex-wives to ex-cons to cheesy Las Vegas weddings.
But the Goods, with their green and white doublewide in like-new condition, seem a far cry from the cockeyed characters seen on television.
Nanci Good’s husband, Nate Good, sits in his leather recliner in their living room. He says the financial freedom their home affords is worth a little ribbing. Instead of letting it bother him, he makes light of it.
“I’ve lived here a year and a half and still one of my favorite jokes is, ‘What are tornadoes?’” He pauses before flashing a smile. “‘God’s answer to trailer parks.’”
Nate Good says that Lakewood Estates is not what people imagine “when they think of a stereotypical trailer park.” Built in 1982, it boasts many of the same amenities as upscale neighborhoods: flower-lined streets, swimming pools, tennis courts, a private clubhouse — a mobile home neighborhood that, like many these days, is redefining the image of trailer parks and the people who live in them.
These people may be like the Goods, who opt for the simpler life; they may be retirees stretching their pensions into old age; or they may be families downsizing to cope with the sluggish economy.
Five years ago, Nanci Good was working as a financial consultant in Denver when her company offered her the opportunity to lead a new branch in Lewisville. She didn’t hesitate.
The Goods downsized from their five-bedroom Denver home to start fresh and nearly debt-free in Denton.
Without a mortgage, the Goods are able to spend money creating new memories instead of paying off old ones. Nate, a dental hygienist, has served as a Boy Scout leader for about two years. His financial situation enables him to provide monetary assistance to some of the families of the boys in his troop who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford their outings. The Goods help pay the living expenses for Nanci’s parents, who now live in Lakewood Estates after spending their retirement income faster than they could replenish it.
“We’re able to help support them and make sure they’ve got a place to live,” Nanci says. “Basically, on Social Security, there’s no way they could survive.”
Robby Golden of Oak Creek Homes, a home manufacturing and retailing business in Sanger that works closely with Lakewood Estates, says there is a significant price difference even for large mobile homes when compared to a foundation home. The average home, he says, may cost $100 or more per square foot, while mobile homes can cost as low as $25 per square foot. And with the mobile homes in Lakewood Estates tightly tied down to individual concrete lots, the park creates “the feeling of stability like foundation homes,” he says.
That low price enabled the Goods to quickly pay off the mortgage of their mobile home, a liberating feeling for those few who experience it.
“No matter what happens, this house is ours,” Nanci Good says. “In uncertain economic times, you never have to worry about losing the house to foreclosure.”
The Goods and other residents do pay monthly lot rental fees of $400, some of which goes to manage the neighborhood.
Lakewood Estates enforces guidelines to maintain its image and safety. Trash cans must be taken off the streets the same day they are emptied, sheds must be built a certain size and painted to match each house, and homeowners must go through criminal background checks.
Nate says most of his neighbors are concerned about the outside appearance of their homes and help each other repair any damage. He often mows the lawn for neighbors who don’t own a lawn mower.
Five years ago, Eric Kihl retired at 65 and purchased a manufactured home. The former IBM executive said he chose Lakewood Estates because of its low cost of living, quiet neighbors and low crime rate.
While he understands when people make fun of trailer parks, he said Lakewood Estates is nothing to joke about.
“Words like ‘trailer trash’ and ‘low-life poor folks’ start to come out,” he says, shaking his head and laughing. “A lot are apropos. But it doesn’t fit places like this.”
The blend of retired residents and families with children create a balanced atmosphere, he says. “There are plenty of people my age, but enough kids to make it nice.”
Nanci Good usually ends her evening walks with a visit to her parents’ house — a blue-colored mobile home surrounded by flowers, just a few steps from the pond.
Any material sacrifice they are making now, she says, will be worth it when they retire.
“When it comes time for us, we’ll have plenty to live off of,” Nanci Good says. “We plan on living here forever. This is our house, this is our home.”