The City of Brighton and Adams County, with the expertise of The Conservation Fund, have successfully preserved the 116-acre Wagner-Mayhew Farm and its related 115 shares of senior water rights. The farm is located in Historic Splendid Valley, the vibrant agricultural area south of Brighton and within the Greater Denver Metropolitan area. This partnership, along with significant grants from the Adams County Open Space Sales Tax program and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), have enabled Brighton to purchase the Wagner-Mayhew farm, with a conservation easement held by Adams County placed on this property, allowing farming to continue while ensuring the land will not be subdivided or developed.
Immediately adjacent to Brighton’s southern boundary, the farmland is located on the northeast and southeast corners of Sable Blvd. and 144th Ave., adjacent to other preserved farms to the northeast, west and southwest. The preservation of this area furthers the mission of Historic Splendid Valley to protect one of the state’s last remaining areas of urban agricultural land with available water rights to ensure food production can continue for the benefit of the local community and region.
"This preservation effort reflects the pride the City of Brighton has for its rich agricultural heritage," said Mayor Gregory Mills. "The City is grateful to our partners for helping ensure a key piece of the area’s natural resources will be preserved for future generations."
“Just like the City of Brighton — our county seat — Adams County has deep agricultural roots,” said Steve O’Dorisio, Chair, Adams County Board of Commissioners. “Preserving the Wagner-Mayhew Farm is our way to honor that heritage, see it continue into the future, and provide support to our local economy.”
The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit focused on conserving land and water for the benefit of local communities, acquired the property from the Wagner-Mayhew family when it came up for sale. The Conservation Fund then held the property for several months until the conservation easement to Adams County and sale to Brighton could be completed. This “buy-protect-sell” strategy enabled The Conservation Fund to acquire the Wagner-Mayhew Farm when it was for sale, securing the farmland for future conservation by the city and county.
“Urgency is high here, with farms like Wagner-Mayhew facing a trifecta of threats from residential development, water ’buy and dry,’ and mining interests,” said Christine Quinlan, The Conservation Fund’s associate state director. “This outcome keeps the momentum for agricultural preservation in Historic Splendid Valley, a model example of a community choosing land protection as a tool to ensure its future health and vitality.”
A $977,000 grant awarded by GOCO, which is funded by Colorado Lottery proceeds, was combined with $5,312,000 from Adams County to complete the conservation easement, permanently protecting the property’s irreplaceable soils, water rights, and open space resources.
“We’re proud to have supported our partners in protecting Wagner-Mayhew Farm and its vital natural resources and agricultural contributions within Historic Splendid Valley,” said GOCO Executive Director Jackie Miller. “Efforts like these are critical for Colorado’s communities and lay the groundwork for future generations to thrive.”
About the Farm
The Wagner-Mayhew Farm is one of the largest parcels to remain in agricultural production in Historic Splendid Valley with its cultivated fields of onions, sweet corn, cabbage, and other food crops forming the “agricultural gateway” to Brighton from the south. The same family owned and operated this fertile property for two generations after Bernard Wagner was able to purchase the farm in 1968, then ran a dairy operation on the property until the mid-1970s. Bernard’s daughter, Phyllis Mayhew, lived on the property for much of her life, overseeing the farming operations for the past 2 ½ decades.
“My family and I are thrilled with this outcome that keeps our prime farmland available to continue growing high-quality local produce for future generations,” said Mayhew. “We especially appreciate The Conservation Fund’s work with us to make this transaction possible.”
Historic Splendid Valley and District Plan
This project is part of a larger strategy of farmland preservation outlined in the award-winning District Plan, which highlights the importance of preserving irreplaceable prime farmland soils with available water rights. This farmland area, known today as the Historic Splendid Valley, is just south of the City of Brighton and is characterized by acres of farmland growing fruits and vegetables in the historic floodplain of the South Platte River. Residents and visitors alike can experience agritourism like you-pick fruits and flowers, farm festivals, and local farm stands. Farms in the area also distribute their produce to grocery stores throughout the state and region and sell locally through seasonal Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), also known as farm share, opportunities.
The preservation of this property brings the total land preserved by the City of Brighton and Adams County in the Historic Splendid Valley to 560 acres, which includes both privately owned lands under agricultural conservation easements and lands owned by the city or county for agricultural preservation. These preserved farmlands are sandwiched between two other regional conservation corridors — Barr Lake State Park to the east and the South Platte River Greenway to the west.
Preservation of the farm is also critical to the local food system. This area has the major components of a successful food system intact, including productive farmland and adequate water rights for irrigation, processing facilities, and access to regional transportation channels as well as local markets.
If you have questions, please contact Travis Haines, Director of Parks & Open Space, at firstname.lastname@example.org.