ONE YEAR LATER: How is Grand Junction’s Botanical Gardens doing? |

ONE YEAR LATER: How is Grand Junction’s Botanical Gardens doing?

Caitlin Row | Free Press
Staff Photo |

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — When Strive, formerly Mesa Developmental Services, took over management of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens in January 2012, the local nonprofit had an expansive vision for the struggling organization — more training and work programs for those in need, an improved garden area, plus a variety of community services to bring locals together near the riverfront.

Here’s the good news: With lots of hard work and reorganization over the past year, Strive has reached many of its goals intrinsic to that vision.

Since the takeover, there has been a huge growth in its work program at the gardens, where clients needing vocational experience train in both paid and volunteer capacities at the garden’s gift shop or on the 15-acre grounds. (Strive offers numerous services for clients who have a broad range of developmental issues.)

“We became affiliated with the gardens initially to have vocational training” on site, said Marilee Langfitt, Strive’s vice president of public relations and development. “Then it just snowballed from there.”

Plus, under new leadership, the garden itself is seeing rejuvenation — inside and out. A recent grant from Colorado Garden Show, Inc., to the tune of $7,500 will fund the rebuilding of the “native garden.” Strive is additionally planning for construction of an events pavilion and a propagation greenhouse with a classroom area to complement the vocational-training program. Those projects will be implemented as funding allows.

“It’s a beautiful place,” garden manager Margie Frey said.

“And something we should all take pride in,” added Langfitt.

Butterflies may soon make a return to the gardens as a main attraction for families in the area, Langfitt and Frey added. The popular butterfly house, which closed in March 2012, could be open as early as this June.

“It’s a process we’ve been working on for a year, and it’s not a fast process,” Frey said.

Class offerings for both kids and adults through community partnerships have increased, too. For example, there’s more opportunity for children’s programming to run simultaneously with adult classes, plus kids programs have increased during summer break and school-closure days.

And though all operational aspects of the gardens are managed by Strive, Langfitt was quick to point out that the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens remains its own separate nonprofit.

“Any money raised here goes directly back to the gardens,” she said, which is needed because bare bones operating expenses comes in at around $175,000.

That money — which originates from memberships, the gift shop, fundraising efforts and rentals — is imperative to the continued health of the organization, and Langfitt noted the importance of community involvement to keep Grand Junction’s botanical gem an ever-improving part of the riverfront area.


This Saturday, May 4, marks a big fundraising event for springtime — Bloomin’ Deals, which will offer a variety of plants and outside decor from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Another community event kicking off May 25 is “Garden Groove,” the botanical garden’s monthly summer concert series planned through September. Jack + Jill will play the first event, staring at 6:30 p.m.

Two big events which normally happen earlier in the growing season have been moved, Langfitt noted. The 22nd annual Western Colorado Botanical Gardens Tour, the largest fundraising event of the season, is now Aug. 24-25. In years past, it happened in June.

“This year, we’re (showing) designer gardens all across the community,” she said.

The Calabash Gourd Festival, which normally occurs in early summer, will now kick off the harvest season Sept. 6-7.

For more information about volunteering, programs and events at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, visit

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