New hospital, library and rec center are changing the face of Fruita

Doohickeys and Dinosaurs, a new toy store in downtown Fruita, carries several unique lines, including these Zoobies, plushed stuffed animals with a blanket inside and sturdy wooden toys made by Melissa and Doug, a manufcturer of educational (and fun!) toys and games.

The new facility for Family Health West, Fruita’s local hospital, is on schedule to be complete by July 2009. The new facility will have better emergency services and will provide increased outpatient services.

Camilla’s Kaffe has been open for breakfast and lunch in downtown Fruita for about seven months. The menu is fairly eclectic, offering coffee drinks, breakfast burritos, bisucits and gravy, sandiwches, paninis, soups, wraps, and salads.

Fruita has developed a number of pedestrian and bike trails, including this one that runs through the new Little Salt Wash Park. The city has plans to continue to improve the park, with bathrooms coming soon after Little League season.

Access to both health care and recreation can be powerful draws for a community, and Fruita has stepped up to the plate in both areas.

Family Health West anticipates that its new hospital will open its doors on July 1, offering better emergency care, more outpatient services and 15 beds for inpatient stays.

“We will be providing outpatient services that haven’t been available in the Fruita area,” says Dennis Ficklin, CEO. Fruita residents won?t need to go to Grand Junction for orthopedic procedures, appendectomies and other one-day surgical procedures. Family Health West has also established outpatient service facilities that offer therapy, rehabilitation, mammography, and pain management in Kokopelli Plaza on the south side of the freeway.

Between the new hospital and the positions already in place at Kokopelli Plaza, Ficklin anticipates that Family Health West will create between 70 and 90 jobs once the hospital is operational.

“We’re getting a fair amount of interest,” says Ficklin, who doesn’t anticipate any problems in attracting quality physicians and other medical personnel to the facilities. The new hospital is being built on an 11 ½ - acre campus that will also be home to the Fruita Community Center and the Fruita branch of the Mesa County Library, both of which are in the planning stages thanks to a successful bond levy in November’s election. “The campaign committee really made a grass roots effort,” says Tury Nycum, recreation director for the city of Fruita. “They went door to door one weekend and tried to let people know exactly what the community center would be.”

Nycum anticipates that the project will be ready to go out for construction bids starting in February or March. The existing outdoor pool will be renovated as part of the community center, and an indoor pool will also be constructed. In addition to the aquatic features, the center will also offer a basketball court, a half gymnasium, an indoor running track, meeting rooms, a senior center, drop-in childcare and fitness areas, a dance room and an aerobics room. The Mesa County Public Library is partnering with the city of Fruita to build a new library that will be between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet, which will be an upgrade over the library’s current 1,700 square foot space.

“That’s what I’m super, super excited about,” says Nycum. “It will be state-of-the-art.” In addition to the community center, the city of Fruita wants to make sure that other recreational areas offer what residents want. The recreation department hosted a public meeting on Jan. 15 to discuss parks, open space and trails. The goal of the meeting was to determine whether residents want more trails and park development, more athletic fields, and also to discuss what types of parks the citizens of Fruita want.

“People can come into the office,” Nycum says for residents who missed the meeting but would like to comment. “We’re always here and we’re always happy to take input and suggestions.”

The city of Fruita’s goal is to help residents stay in Fruita for goods, services and recreation, a goal that both long-term and new businesses in Fruita also encourage. City Market, which has held a grocery store monopoly in Fruita for years, recently renovated the Fruita store.

“Unfortunately, we’re landlocked here, so we couldn’t expand,” says Don Wynkoop, who’s been the store manager for 24 years. “So we redid the inside. We have a better holding capacity, a better selection. We now have a full service seafood and gourmet meat department, a full-service deli, a good natural and organic selection, and we expanded the number of items we carried.”

Wynkoop says the remodel has increased the number of customers in the store, encouraging Fruita residents who used to shop in Grand Junction to do their grocery shopping locally instead.

Dawn O’Grady, the owner of Doohickeys and Dinosaurs, also hopes to encourage residents to shop locally. O’Grady had a booth at the Fruita Fall Fest, where she offered children’s toys, accessories and décor. The event was successful enough to lead her to open a store downtown that was originally intended to operate just for the 2008 Christmas season. The success of that venture encouraged her to continue the store year-round.

“People have been overwhelmingly warm and welcoming,” says O’Grady. “I’ve had people buy things they didn’t need just to support the store.”

In addition to gifts for children, O’Grady wants to carry a few gifts that children can buy for their parents or grandparents for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

“I’m not trying to be an expensive children’s boutique,” says O’Grady. “I’m trying to be a quality store, so what you buy from me is still going to be wearable, usable and playable next year.”

Fruita wants to retain its sense of small-town community while meeting the needs of its citizens. Those who want to try small-town life in Fruita don’t need to scour the real estate pages. There are a number of new subdivisions with prices starting in the 200s, and there are also several subdivisions with prices above $300,000. Those who want to keep it under $200,000 will have to consider existing homes, townhomes or condos.


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