Land trust preserves 30 Fruita acres

DAVID AND JULIE SWINGER stand on their land at 2050 M Road. The Mesa Land Trust has completed a conservation easement with the Swingers that will protect their 30-acre farm from development.

Standing in the middle of a dirt road on his 30-acre property, David Swinger, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, can see the Colorado National Monument to the southwest and the Bookcliffs to the northeast.

Acres of farmland, on which he grows hay for horses and alpaca, surrounds him. The air is clear and the sights and the sounds of the city are far away.

“We want to keep this as it is,” Swinger said.

On Tuesday, the Mesa Land Trust assured Swinger and his wife, Julie, that what is will always be.

The trust purchased the development rights from the Swingers for $238,000 and added their acreage, which is adjacent to another 118-acre conserved farm, to the Fruita buffer zone.

The purchase funds came from two sources: $125,000 from Great Outdoors Colorado and $113,000 in matching funds from supporters of the buffer zone program — Mesa County, the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita and the town of Palisade.

The Swinger property is a perfect addition to the buffer zone program, which seeks to preserve open space in two zones — one between Grand Junction and Fruita and the other between Grand Junction and Palisade — said Rob Bleiberg, director of the land trust.

“Mesa County is blessed with some really amazing farms and habitats,” he said.

The land here is rich with wildlife, is agriculturally productive and fits neatly into the buffer zone. These qualities make it worth the expenditure of Great Outdoors Colorado lottery funds as an investment in the Grand Valley’s future, Bleiberg said.

“We are going to grow. The question is: How do we grow?” he said.

The question, at least in this corner of the valley, has been resolved. The Swingers, Dave, 55, a teacher at Nisley Elementary School, and Julie, 48, a nurse at First Choice Same Day Surgery Center, cannot make a living from farming, but with the help of the land trust they can not only farm, but they have saved the farm for all to enjoy.

The Mesa Land Trust said it holds more than 125 conservation agreements totaling more than 50,000 acres. Of that, 28 of the agreements, totaling 1,128 acres, are in the buffer zones, according to the trust.


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