Preservation, new construction projects under way at Sylvan Lake State Park |

Preservation, new construction projects under way at Sylvan Lake State Park

Sylvan Lake, the centerpiece of Sylvan Lake State Park, has been closed all summer as crews work to reconstruct the 1930s era dam at the site.
Daily file photo

Something old, something new doesn’t just apply to brides. It’s an apt description of what’s happening at Sylvan Lake State Park.

Starting with the new, Sylvan Lake’s new dam in nearing completion. Touching on the old, the historic Upper Brush Creek School is slated for a preservation project this month.

“The dam construction project is coming along well. It’s now weather dependent,” said Mike Wall, Sylvan Lake State Park supervisor. While the concrete work at the structure is slated for completion by the end of October, the grading and dirt work may not be done until spring. Additionally, revegetation will likely happen in 2019.

“We are still hoping the lake itself will refill this winter,” Wall said.

As crews work to finish a new amenity at the popular state park, volunteers will soon converge at the site to preserve a historic landmark in the area.

Upper Brush Creek School

HistoriCorps, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving America’s historic structures, in partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, will launch a preservation project at the Upper Brush Creek School beginning Tuesday, Oct. 9.

“We are super excited to get the structure stabilized so it will last many, many more years,” Wall said.

The project will include stabilization efforts that require HistoriCorps’ experience and dedication. Specifically, a new roof is planned for the school. Along with the preservation experts, volunteers from the local community, across the state and throughout the nation, will come together to work at the site from Tuesday, Oct. 9, to Sunday, Oct. 21.

The Upper Brush Creek Schoolhouse was built by local volunteers and homesteaders who raised money and materials for its construction. The structure is striking because it is the only historic schoolhouse located in a Colorado State Park. During its heyday, the school was the center of Brush Creek ranching community between the years of 1915 and 1941. According to HistoriCorps’ project partner, “the schoolhouse gave homesteaders a sense of identity and permanence in a place of untamed wilderness.”

HistoriCorps Executive Director Townsend Anderson welcomes volunteers to help with the project to preserve an example of rural schoolhouses from the early days of settlement in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

“I learned long ago that historic preservation is 90 percent attitude and 10 percent skill. If you care about a building, you will do what is necessary to do right by it. This is why we love to engage volunteers,” Anderson said. “Volunteers are with us because they want to be, because they care. To bring this enthusiasm to communities and special places can be downright magical.”

Wall noted the project is a preservation effort, not a restoration. The school building will not be accessible to the public, but it will remain a local landmark for people to visit.

Wall added that the Eagle County Historical Society and Alpine Lumber, which is donating materials for the preservation, have been important partners for the project.

Sylvan Lake dam

As crews continue work on the new Sylvan Lake dam, Wall said at least four cabins will be available to rent this winter.

“We aren’t accepting reservations yet for the campsites because we just don’t know yet when facilities will be available,” Wall said.

The roughly 70-year-old dam at Sylvan Lake is being rebuilt this year. The lake was significantly drained, and heavy equipment mobilized at the site this summer. The cabins and campsites at the lake, as well as the trail around the lake itself, were closed.

“The dam at the lake dates back to the 1940s, and it is all earthen. It doesn’t meet today’s dam standards,” Wall said.

The new dam was designed to prevent future failures and the concrete structure will be covered with topsoil and to look like the previous structure.

Support Local Journalism