While there is a lot of general activity out in the Loma and Mack area this springtime, there aren't a lot of changes in the basic real estate market. There are no major subdivisions coming to the area, there are no big commercial projects and no plans to convert the agricultural and recreational areas of Loma and Mack into suburbs of Grand Junction or Fruita, which is just the way everyone wants it.

Springtime brings plenty of visitors to the Kokopelli trailhead area in Loma, however, and this year, visitors have experienced cooler temperatures and trails that might be a little muddier than normal. With the Colorado Riverfront Trail's recent expansion from Fruita all the way to Loma, some trail users are opting to ride to the popular mountain biking area from Fruita.

There has also been an increase in the number of visitors who are coming to the Loma boat launch for a trip down Ruby/Horsethief Canyon. Although the BLM's policy was not to charge for overnight camping from October through March, it has been able to track the numbers of visitors because campers are still required to have a permit.

"Our use has increased in April and October," said Collin Ewing with the BLM. "We didn't charge fees for this April, but we expect to charge them through October."

Increased numbers of visitors mean more patrols and a more active role in managing the area. The rangers have also noted that when people don't pay a fee to reserve a campsite, they're more likely not to go, but yet not officially cancel online, when the weather's iffy. The reserved spot remains unavailable to other users, even if the original users opt not to go.

The Colorado River is already higher and faster than it's been for some time, so Ewing urges caution to those who want to get out on the river.

"Ruby/Horsethief is a great beginner stretch most of the year, but on these years when we get high water, it's not a good time of year to be on the river if you're a beginner," he said. Although it's not required to wear life jackets on that stretch of river, Ewing urges everyone to wear one, and even put one on the dog.

There's a slow, but steady demand for housing in the Loma and Mack area, and most of the people who are looking want a nice home on a small parcel of land that would allow them to have horses or other animals, and get them away from nearby neighbors.

Agricultural properties are also moving, both for traditional uses like cattle, sheep, alfalfa and silage corn, as well as to users who want to grow commercial hemp.

"In Mack, there was a 300-acre ranch that was bought by a hemp grower," said Zay Lopez, who farms and operates the Produce Peddler, a community-supported agriculture farm in Mack, and who is also a realtor with Robinson and Co. Realty in Fruita.

It is legal to grow hemp commercially outside in open fields, and it is nearly impossible to distinguish hemp from marijuana, so if you're out in Loma and Mack and think you see large fields full of marijuana, it's most likely hemp.

According to Lopez, some of the potential hemp growers have no background in agriculture at all, while some have a strong farming background. All are hoping that hemp could turn out to be a lucrative cash crop. Most are looking in Loma and Mack because ag land is less expensive there than in Palisade or Grand Junction.

Lopez and his wife will continue growing vegetables on their Mack farm this season, selling mostly to CSA customers in the Fruita area. Lopez has formed a partnership with LiveWell Colorado and the Mesa County WIC program, and will supply fresh produce all season to 15 WIC participants in the Fruita area.

"People on WIC can get milk and bread, but they don't get fresh produce," said Lopez, who is excited about the pilot program.

The Produce Peddler's first CSA distribution will be June 12, with greens, kale, radishes, onions and kohlrabi. For more information or to find out how to be part of the CSA, visit theproducepeddler.com.

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