The Garden Gate
There’s a gate across the entrance to Mrs. Walsh’s Garden, but it’s not designed to keep people away. In fact, this Estes Valley Land Trust conservation easement, located at the west end of the downtown, is one where the public is encouraged to enter, wander, and enjoy at any time. (The gate is there only to discourage deer and elk looking for a tasty nibble.)
Usually, when land is placed in a conservation easement, the public is not invited to enter the property. The landowner places a conservation easement on the property to protect it from further development, and protection is designed to last forever. The landowner enters into a voluntary legal agreement, individually designed to meet the owner’s intent and wishes. The conservation easement with a land trust then permanently restricts the property’s future development use in order to preserve its conservation values. Title to the property remains with the landowner, but further commercial or residential development is permanently restricted. So the public enjoys the open vistas and the wildlife habitat is protected, but it’s still private property.
Not so with Mrs. Walsh’s Garden! Back in 1996, resident Judy Lamy didn’t want to see the land on West Elkhorn Avenue, just down the cliff from where she lived, turned into commercial use. There were plans in place to build more stores, and developers were dynamiting portions of the cliff face on the property to make it bigger. So she bought the property. Then she did what she and many of her family members had always done. She started a garden.
Judy dedicated this project to honor her grandmother, Mrs. Winifred Walsh, and her family’s love of the area. Mrs. Walsh’s Garden quickly became a united community project. Colorado State University offered assistance, and student Kent Sondergrath designed the Colorado native plant garden as his graduation project. Not only would the garden become a place of beauty, but residents and visitors can learn about water conservation and native plants of various life zones. Bob Joseph, who was then the Town Planner, assisted. The League of Women Voters aligned itself with the project for its educational value. Eagle Rock students volunteered their time. Botanist Barrie Bernier, who ran the greenhouse at Rocky Mountain National Park, helped with selection, planting and cultivation. Dozens of private citizens donated hours of time creating a waterfall, a dry stream bed, informational signage, pathways, and statuary. Currently the garden is under the care of Master Gardener Joan Sapp.
In August 2001 Judy completed a Deed of Conservation Easement with Estes Valley Land Trust to permanently protect the property from future development. Retail, commercial and industrial activity, and building construction are prohibited, but this conservation easement specifically allows the property to be improved and used as a garden and park, accessible to public.
It is a proven fact that for every $1 spent on conservation, a town’s economic development is enhanced each year by $4 (or more), especially in resort communities where visitation depends on the proximity of open space and natural surroundings. Each spring, this beautiful 0.69-acre plot, located at the west end of the downtown area, comes to life again, enhancing our town’s visitor appeal as everyone is invited to open the gate and stroll at leisure in the surprising quiet of this mountain garden, enjoying the flora of life zones from the foothills to the alpine tundra.
Keep your eyes open also for the special events that are held at the Garden. This year the annual family activities party is on Saturday, July 13, 9:00 to noon. It will include fun games and projects for children of all ages. An adult wine and cheese garden party will be on Tuesday, July 30, 7:00 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
Thanks to Judy Lamy for her foresight in creating this permanent retreat in our downtown area. Thanks also to current garden contact, Mary Lamy, who coordinates resources for the garden. Volunteers and donations are always welcome, so if you would like to make a donation to this educational project, please email Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can view the garden on the Internet at tinyurl.com/qxy6sfk but you will enjoy it even more when you walk through the gate in person—anytime!