Conservation Easement

"The Easement herein granted shall be a burden upon and shall run with the Property in perpetuity, and shall bind the Grantor, Grantor’s successors and assigns forever."

Rainbow Nursery 1994 Conservation Easement

"The Grantee recognizes the public benefit to be served by such preservation as described in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan Environmental Resources and/or Open Space Sections."

2005 adjacent Conservation Easement (Ours)

"Relying on the doctrine of merger to extinguish the easement

is entirely inappropriate.” 

Professor Nancy Mclaughlin

Law Professor at the University of Utah, quoted in Yellow Scene Magazine

Rainbow was one of the first af

New open space tax

In 1994, Boulder County purchased a conservation easement on Rainbow Nursery for $169,625. The conservation easement was purchased with money acquired from a new sales and use tax for acquisition of open space land, approved by the voters of Boulder County on November 2, 1993. The purchase of the conservation easement was signed by Ronald Stewart. 

A memo from Parks and Open Space recommending the purchase began by stating that the formers owners "have created a visually beautiful sight for traffic along SH 287 with over $1,000,000 in tree plantings. There is a small pond at the back of the property that attracts cranes, geese and ducks . . . This entire property is classified as agricultural land of national significance."

The memo also asserted that, "Combined with the property's significance as prime agricultural land, the scenic and habitat values establish considerable justification for preservation." Along with its agricultural significance, reasons to pay a large sum for the conservation easement included "preserving the viewshed. Since this is a heavily traveled route, the visual sense of openness is an important component of the rural quality of unincorporated Boulder County." Further, the conservation easement would help in "continuing to develop a wide buffer along the Boulder Creek riparian corridor for the long term benefits to wildlife and human enjoyment of rural Boulder County." 

Rainbow Nursery's history since 1994

The human history of Rainbow since 1994

Boulder County selectively enforced Rainbow's conservation easement against owners and prospective buyers until it bought the property in 2018 with the intent to strip Rainbow of its conservation values and develop it for an industrial, commercial purpose.


The owners who lovingly created Rainbow Nursery struggled to maintain the business and knew they had to sell. With prospective buyers wary of Boulder County's notoriously inconsistent permitting, however, the owners lost the tree farm. In fact, when new owners purchased Rainbow in 2015, the county refused to grant them permits to realize their dream of a small horse farm. Unbeknownst to them, the County was in fact already targeting their property for a future industrial waste processing site, citing the conservation easement as a "problem."


When the new owners gave up and listed Rainbow for sale in 2018, they found the perfect buyer: an arborist who had been a devoted Rainbow Nursery customer. The County claimed that her tree-care company wasn’t consistent with Rainbow – a tree farm – and she was forced to withdraw her offer.


Finally, an established hemp farmer signed a contract to buy Rainbow, which immediately triggered the County's right of first refusal. The County expressed no interest, so the hemp farmer and his partners invested extensively in their plans. The County bought Rainbow on the 45th and final day of its option to purchase, declaring that there wasn't "time to bring it before POSAC [Parks and Open Space]."

The language of the conservation easement

The unambiguous language of Rainbow's conservation easement


WHEREAS, the Property’s significant agricultural attributes, its present and continued agricultural use and its open space values are of great importance to the Grantor, the Grantee and the people of the County of Boulder and are worthy of preservation; and

WHEREAS, the Grantor desires to continue responsible agricultural practices and the use of the Property in such a manner that protects the Property’s agricultural and water resources; and

WHEREAS, it is the policy of Boulder County to encourage preservation and utilization of prime agricultural lands for agricultural uses as such policy is declared in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan; and

WHEREAS, the State of Colorado has recognized the importance of private efforts to preserve land in a natural, scenic, historical or open condition, and for wildlife habitat and agricultural uses consistent with the protection of open land having undisturbed or restored environmental quality, by the enactment of Section 38-30.5-101, et seq., Colorado Revised Statutes 1973 (1982 Repl. Vol.); and

WHEREAS, the Grantor desires to sell an interest in the Property to the Grantee in order to assure its preservation in perpetuity; and

WHEREAS, the Grantee recognizes the public benefit to be served by such preservation as described in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan Environmental Resources and/or Open Space Sections; and

WHEREAS, the Grantee desires to purchase an interest in the Property from the Grantor in order to assure its preservation in perpetuity for agricultural uses and for the open space function which it serves.

The Davis family conservation easement

Our conservation easement


Reverie Farms, our home, was owned by Marilyn and Richard Swalde. In 2005 Boulder County purchased a conservation easement on the north eighteen acres of the property. The parcel shares its border with Rainbow by the Leggett Ditch. A stream flows from Rainbow through our "north eighteen," which has fed and watered horses and cows on and off for many years. It is also home to wildlife; we often see coyotes and raptors there.