New site found for body farm

College buys parcel near landfill to build forensic research center

Mesa State College plans to place human corpses for scientific study on a rural tract of land near the Mesa County Landfill, believing it will be far enough away from homes to avoid being a nuisance.

College officials told The Daily Sentinel on Thursday the college’s Real Estate Foundation purchased a 35-acre industrial parcel south of the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and 32 Road to be the permanent home of the college’s Forensic Anthropology Research Center and Western Colorado Community College’s electric-line-worker’s program.

Mesa State President Tim Foster said the site is a mile away from the nearest subdivision, the 22-home Elk Run Estates. He and other college officials walked door-to-door in the neighborhood Thursday evening, informing homeowners about the land buy and inviting them to an open house next month to learn more about the forensic anthropology center and the line-worker’s program.

“We believe this location to be very suitable for both programs,” Foster said.

Derek Wagner, the college’s director of strategic initiatives, said the foundation purchased the property from Whitewater LLC and will close on it Aug. 6. He declined to release the purchase price.

The purchase of the land on Orchard Mesa comes a little more than four months after the college, under pressure from neighbors, abandoned plans to temporarily build the forensic anthropology center on the foundation’s 154-acre property at 29 Road and Riverside Parkway.

The college didn’t tell neighbors about its plans for the original site in Pear Park, which was a matter of just a few hundred feet from homes, and it quietly erected a 10-foot razor wire fence. Residents objected based on concerns ranging from odors and pests to potential impacts on their property values.

After pulling out of Pear Park, Wagner said the college looked at more than 10 locations across the Grand Valley and developed criteria on which to base the body farm’s location. Those criteria included the proximity to homes and the college campus, available utilities, whether the site is in a natural condition and the presence of outside variables.

For example, he said, the college shied away from one site that had a history of uranium contamination because that could skew body decomposition.

“We wanted it to be far enough away from residences but still close enough for the users of the property to get to,” Wagner said.

He said officials liked the site because it could house the forensic anthropology center and the line-worker’s program, allowing the college to maximize its resources.

The programs would be located on a barren stretch of land between Coffman Road and U.S. Highway 50, about halfway between the Mesa County Animal Services building and a Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance shop. Foster said the site won’t be visible from U.S. Highway 50.

Foster said he hopes to have the forensic anthropology center up and running in the fall. Wagner said a “handful” of people have expressed interest in donating their bodies to the program.

Mesa State’s center would be the fifth in the U.S. and the first located in a higher-altitude, semi-arid climate.


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