At Home-ah in Loma
By Penny Stine
The west end of the Grand Valley is a great place for people who want an agricultural lifestyle or who simply want to be out in the country, away from noise, neighbors, and traffic. Loma and Mack are home to few urban or suburban conveniences, although there was recently a planning hearing for a new 300-foot cell tower north of Loma that could improve telecommunications to residents in the Lower Valley. Loma has a school, a post office, and a general store, while Mack has a liquor store and a post office. Loma is also home to the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction, although that isn’t exactly a suburban amenity.
Loma does, however, have a food truck, which is pretty urban for the laid-back farm community. Of course, the food truck serves barbecue, offering traditional offerings like ribs, brisket, pulled pork, smoked chicken and all the traditional sides.
“I live out there,” said Beth Burt, who operates Double B Barbecue and first set up her barbecue trailer at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Auction on Wednesdays during the auctions while the restaurant was closed. “I developed a Loma following.”
Burt has been operating at the Loma Country Store Thursdays through Sundays since April, and she’s pleased with the amount of business she’s had.
“I’m meeting so many different people,” she said. “It’s funny how much traffic is through that little place.”
Although the urban amenities in Loma might be lacking, there’s no shortage of recreational opportunities. Loma is home to the famous Fruita mountain biking trails at Horsethief Bench, which have garnered Fruita a world-class reputation for mountain biking, even though the trails are in Loma. A majority of the riders in the area are from out-of-the-area in the spring and fall, but this time of year, it’s mostly locals who go out and ride early in the morning before the heat makes it unbearable. According to statistics from the BLM, there were 58,000 people visiting the Kokopelli trailhead in 2017.
The city of Fruita is currently building a bike trail that connects the Colorado Riverfront Trail system from where it currently stops in Fruita to Loma. The trail is paved, with a single track trail running roughly parallel to the paved portion for mountain bikers who are in Fruita and want to ride to the trails. The opening of the trail has been delayed due to various construction issues, but the final bridge over Reed wash is scheduled to be built on Aug. 1, and the trail should be open to mountain bikers and road bicyclists the following week.
Loma is also home to Highline Lake, which is a refreshing, nearby place for locals to go for boating, fishing, paddle boarding or swimming, especially this time of year when the heat is relentless. Those who prefer their water recreation on a river can also find adventure in Loma, where there’s a boat launch on the Colorado River that takes adventurers on the 25-mile, Ruby-Horsethief section of the river to Westwater, Utah. Thanks to the permitting system for campsites, the BLM is able to track the number of people who float that section of the river, as well as where they’re coming from. In 2017, 21,000 people came through that section of the river, and according to Collin Ewing with the BLM, about 85 percent of them are from outside Mesa County.
Real estate in Loma and Mack is selling, although not as briskly as in other parts of the Grand Valley where buyers can find 2,000-square foot homes in neighborhoods full of other, similarly priced homes. Because the tiny Mack sewer system is not accepting new taps and there is no sewer system for Loma, most available tracts of land or properties for sale come with acreage. Some are small acreage parcels of one to five acres, and others are larger parcels with hundreds of acres that are used strictly for agricultural production.
“Hay prices have doubled in the last year,” said Mandy Rush, a RE/MAX 4000 agent who handles many horse and agricultural properties across the Grand Valley. “There’s a lot more interest now than in past years in productive farm ground. So much farm ground in the north and in Fruita has been developed; if you want a large parcel of farm ground, you have to go to Loma and Mack.”
Rush has a Mack property with 295 acres in six parcels, with a shop and utilities, as well as gated pipe and pivot irrigation that’s currently in grass alfalfa hay production. The property has been on the market for about three months, and she’s already received three offers on it, although none of them have been accepted at this point.
The drought and fires in many hay-producing areas across the western United States have led to increased hay prices, which Rush said has been good for agriculture in the Lower Valley.
“It’s brought attention to the importance of maintaining our agriculturally productive land,” she said. “There’s importance and value in farm ground.”