A nursery with community in mind

Co-owners hope business will grow into a garden center, focal point

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A few hundred saplings -- including aspens, five types of crab apples and cottonwoods -- sit on a 5-acre lot at the south end of Phippsburg.

The trees are being climatized to the area's winter, and once May arrives they will be some of the first plants sold at the new South Routt Nursery.

Just as those trees, once they're planted in yards across the county, will grow, nursery co-owners Chris "Zusch" Zuschlag and Tim Fink say they hope their business will grow into a garden center and focal point for the South Routt County community.

"Growing with the community," Fink said. "That's exactly how we're going to build this thing over time."

Zuschlag agreed and added, "We'll let the community tell us which direction they want us to grow."

The vision for the nursery is that it will become a center where residents and leaders of Oak Creek, Toponas, Yampa and Stagecoach can come together as a community, Zuschlag said.

The nursery eventually will offer master gardener and agricultural presentations, opportunities for students to work and learn about plants, and a playground.

There are plans for a community garden and greenhouse, where residents can grow their own vegetables and other plants.

When the nursery opens next spring, it will fill a need that Zuschlag and Fink said they have noticed in South Routt.

"There's nothing over there for plant material," Zuschlag said. "People that build out there are stuck with coming all the way to Steamboat for plants."

The nursery will offer affordable plant material as well as free advice from certified horticulturalists and gardening experts, including Zuschlag and Fink, who have worked with landscaping and garden design for years.

"Having these people on our staff is going to allow people to come in and get really rock-solid advice," Fink said.

Zuschlag owns and runs I-Design, a landscape contracting business specializing in landscaping, irrigation, erosion control and more.

The idea for the nursery has been on Zuschlag's mind since 1998. Since that time, he has worked to find an affordable piece of land. With the help of Doug Campbell, the yard master for the Phippsburg station of Union Pacific Railroad, Zuschlag was able to buy a parcel from the railroad.

When it opens in May, the nursery will offer a range of trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials. Zuschlag said he plans to select plants that are hardy and that will grow well in the area. The nursery also will be able to special order plants for customers.

Zuschlag and Fink have lived and worked in the Yampa Valley for years. Zuschlag was born and raised in Steamboat Springs. His grandfather built the Harbor Hotel and other downtown buildings, and his grandmother ran the city's first preschool on Laurel Street.

Fink came to the area in the mid-1980s.

The two met two decades ago while they were instructors on the ski mountain; Zuschlag taught snowboarding and Fink taught skiing.

Once Zuschlag learned he could get the property, Fink asked if he could join as a partner. The owners of Kinnikinnick Lawn and Garden also joined as partners.

The group members work well together, have strong ties to the valley and bring a wealth of landscaping and gardening knowledge to the business, Zuschlag said.

The garden center and Zuschlag's landscaping business will work with the nursery to save on costs of material and will pass those savings along to customers, he said.

One of the best parts of the business, Zuschlag said, is that it's friendly to the environment and can help improve the landscape.

The South Routt Nursery will be open to the public in early May, depending on weather.

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