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'Things Have Changed So Much': Beloved Fort Collins Attraction Closing

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – A free roadside attraction that has drawn in thousands of visitors throughout the past three decades will soon close, according to its owner. The Swetsville Zoo, a property filled with animals and creatures made out of recycled metals, will close after 34 years.

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Owner and founder Bill Swets told CBS4's Dillon Thomas he loved the adventure of creating for the public. However, after years of the Fort Collins and Timnath communities growing around him, he felt he no longer belonged at the Interstate 25 and Harmony Road interchange.

More than 180 creations inhabit the zoo, with more than 100 others found around the United States. Swets said his dream was to scatter them around a 14 acre property in Timnath, along the Poudre River.

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However, the town decided to develop the property. Other surrounding land was bought by Walmart, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, Starbucks and Costco.

"(The zoo) was never a business or anything. It is just a hobby that has gotten a little out of hand," Swets said. "(Designs) go from birds to bugs, to dinosaurs to spaceships."

Swets built the first creature in 1985 and opened his property to the public. Visitors are welcomed to see the creations for free and are encouraged to leave a donation. Many said they visited the zoo as a kid, and now bring their children or grandchildren.

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"It has been so much fun just to show (my grandchildren) the things their mom loved at the same age," said Phil Sheridan, a visitor.

Swets said he decided to list the property for sale after realizing the communities around him no longer matched his love for farmlands and smaller towns.

"Things have changed so much since I was a kid," Swets said. "It is big city. It is big city attitude. It is not home anymore, you know?"

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A realtor listed the property for $10.5 million. Swets said he would never see a dime of the money, sharing the funds would go to a trust which would be handed down to his grandchildren.

Swets said he did not know what would happen to all the sculptures he created. He hoped a potential buyer would find a way to develop the land for their own needs, while also creating a riverfront park for the sculptures to live. He wished they would all stay together, while also acknowledging the likelihood was low.

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"It's been a great life, I wouldn't trade it for anything. We've had an awful lot of fun, we really have," Swets said.

The zoo will remain open and free until the property is sold.

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