It was too good to last.
Last week, a "For sale" sign went up on the corner of Fourth and Oak streets, officially putting the land that houses the LIFT-UP Community Garden on the market.
Since 1998, Karin Utterback-Normann has leased the .24-acre property for no charge to LIFT-UP of Routt County. Twenty-seven community garden plots were offered to anyone with a green thumb. For $25, gardeners were offered access to water and a tool shed for their 8-foot-by-8-foot plots. Gardeners were required to grow organically and to donate a quarter of their produce to the LIFT-UP Food Bank.
The lot at 404 Oak St. was the former residence of Normann's father, John "Doc" Utterback, who died in May 1996. After her father's death, Karin Utterback-Normann donated his house to the Tread of Pioneers Museum. The house was moved four blocks away to its current location next to the museum.
Normann offered the empty lot to LIFT-UP but continued to pay $4,000 a year in property taxes. The LIFT-UP Community Garden opened May 31, 1998.
LIFT-UP pays for the water and mows the lawn. Normann maintains the trees and controls the weeds.
This year, the maintenance and tax bill were too much, she said. Normann decided to sell this fall.
"It's more than what we can handle," Normann said. "I have had a good relationship with LIFT-UP, and I wish them success.
"I have real mixed feelings about this, but we're retired, and we have to look at our bottom line. I've paid the taxes for all these years, and now it's time to see some return on that asset."
At the time of Doc Utterback's death, Normann said there was a real need for open space in Steamboat, and she was too busy with her father's estate to put the Oak Street lot up for sale.
"I was happy to (lease it to LIFT-UP). It just fell into place, and it was right at the time. It still is right in many ways," she said. "The gardeners have worked real hard on it, and I've walked through there so many times enjoying what they've done."
The continued existence of what has become a Steamboat institution relies on the purchaser of the property, she said. "It would be wonderful if the city or some group could purchase the property to keep it as open space in the town. I'm not selling it so someone can put up a new office building."
The lot is zoned for commercial use and is listed at $399,000.