Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

May 18, 2017
Explore the Fawson Preserve on Wednesday’s garden tour

Editor’s note: This week’s Garden Spot is written by Jay Cooper’s wife, Maggie Cooper.

The year we moved from Arizona to Utah, it snowed on June 2. That was particularly memorable for me for two reasons. First, it was a few days after we had arrived in Tooele Valley. Second, it was my birthday. Mild panic ensued as we realized we had moved to a place where it snows in June!

We have since come to understand Utah weather. The most predictable thing about it is its unpredictability.

Now with the cold snap this week, we are looking forward to the 70s again by Sunday. The wonderful, warm weather is perfect for a garden event next Wednesday!

The Tooele County Master Gardeners are hosting a free “Walk and Talk” at the Fawson Preserve in Grantsville on Wednesday, May 24, at 6 p.m. You’ll see, firsthand, what the Fawsons have created— something best experienced in person.

Jay and I met Gary and Janet Fawson in about 2003. We attended the Annual Garden Tour for the first time. The Fawsons welcomed us onto their log home porch for cookies and lemonade. In just a few years, they had made impressive progress on their yard.

Since then, we have maintained a good friendship as they have built the Fawson Preserve.

Gary and Janet had lived in California for 30 years when, in 2000. The kids were raised and after retiring, they decided to return to Gary’s hometown—Grantsville. They purchased three different adjacent properties—160 acres in all. Gary began working on a 3D sketch of his dream yard.

Did he stick to his original plan? Gary replied, “Yes, for the most part. Of course, some things changed along the way”.

The land was unworked and filled with Russian Olive trees. But Gary and Janet saw the for the pristine landscape’s potential. After completing their home, they  dug two ponds.

“I had a friend with the equipment needed to excavate and he went to work,” Gary said. “We hit water at a depth of three feet under ground surface!” It only took a day or two for the ponds for fill from beneath. 16 years later, their artesian well still pumps 75 gallons a minute.

Next they planted trees—thousands of them, as well as a myriad of perennials. Their artesian water allows them to irrigate generously. Today, the trees and plants look like they’ve been there for decades.

You come into their property down the tree-lined driveway, and are greeted with a lush green “forest.” People ask Gary how he “found” such a lush property. “I didn’t”, he will reply. He shows them photos of the sparse land he inherited.

To create and care for such an expansive landscape takes a lot of time, the proper tools, an incredible amount of water and a lot of hard work. Gary feels he is making good use of water. “If I don’t use our ground water, it will just leach into the Salt Lake and evaporate off. Our place is a green-belt for this town and a beautiful habitat for people and animals.”

I asked Gary what his most enjoyable projects have been over the years. He responded that it was when he got to create dimension and elevation around the place by moving dirt to sculpt interesting small hills, and then planting trees, grass and perennials among meandering pathways. Visitors stroll up and over areas to discover another section and adventure.

Listening to the yard to “talk to you” and then following its lead can produce some amazing results. Gary admitted that many of them came about because of his own aversion to walking all the way around a pond to get to the next area.

It’s really difficult to describe the Fawson’s place and do it justice, but let me try. In addition to the ponds, trees and just about every plant you can imagine, Gary and Janet have added a second log home, a ramada area for outdoor cooking and eating, a playground, and docks complete with canoes for grandkids to get on the water.

That’s not all. There are walking paths that surround both ponds, a Tennessee style woodshop and greenhouse, fruit orchards and vegetable gardens, a gazebo on the water’s edge and several fenced pastures with horses and cattle grazing.

All together, there are nearly 26 landscaped acres. Every time I go for a visit, I find a new vantage point with an interesting landscape or hardscape feature I have never noticed before.

In 2003, Mayor Byron Anderson was Grantsville’s mayor and he asked Gary and Janet if they would spearhead a program to help Grantsville become a Tree City USA. To become a Tree City USA, the town must initiate four standards. First, create a Tree Board or Department within the city government. Second, institute a Tree Care Ordinance that will ensure proper care of the trees. Third, create a Community Forestry Program with an annual budget of at least $2 per capita to fund the purchase and care of the trees. Finally, Grantsville would need to observe Arbor Day annually as a community.

The Fawsons and others they recruited stepped up to the challenge and Grantsville has attained and maintained Tree City status for the last 14 years. This past Arbor Day, Grantsville added 317 trees that were purchased and planted by citizens and also planted 183 trees, a generous gift from Cargill Salt, in the cemetery.

“Grantsville was known as a tree-lined city when I was growing up,” Gary recalled. “The trees were irrigated via natural water that flowed abundantly in the city. Then in 1983, they dammed up the water flow and diverted it into pipes. Shortly after, the trees began to die from the lack of water.” It’s been Gary’s goal to reverse this consequence and return Grantsville to its historic legacy of trees. I’d say he’s accomplishing that goal.

The Preserve is featured each year in the Annual Garden Tour. Come to this free preview to see one of the reasons the Garden Tour continues to grow as a valued community tradition. Get advance tickets to the Tour at the Walk and Talk. They are $7 for each adult, with children 12 and under free.

Guides will take you through the property, showing special points of interest. You’ll be inspired by shady paths, view beautiful flowers and shrubs, spot wildlife, see the cool outbuildings, marvel at all the trees, and enjoy some great camaraderie!

The Preserve is located at 187 Waterhole Way in Grantsville—look for the event signs. The event runs from 6 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, contact Jay Cooper at 435-830-1447 or

Jay Cooper can be contacted at, or you can visit his channel at for videos on the hands-on life of gardening, shop and home skills, culinary arts and landscaping.

Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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