After 13 meetings over eight months, Sweetwater community wonders if concerns over proposed new state park have been heard |

After 13 meetings over eight months, Sweetwater community wonders if concerns over proposed new state park have been heard

The Forest Service now will publicly review alternatives for developing a park at Sweetwater Lake managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

On the water at Sweetwater Lake on the southeastern side of the Flat Tops area.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

The 13 meetings over the past eight months between Sweetwater community members and the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife were meant to hammer out a rough-draft plan for the proposed new state park at Sweetwater Lake. 

As the Forest Service prepares to enter a formal environmental review of what could happen at Sweetwater Lake in Garfield County, there is no plan and little agreement. There is a lot of frustration. 

“We have a choice. We are either going to manage it before everyone comes or we are going to manage it after the chaos,” White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said Tuesday at the final meeting between the agencies and a Sweetwater community group in Eagle. “No matter what, it’s going to get discovered. We have a choice to figure this out before they all come up or we wait for the chaos to come.”

Fitzwilliams was frustrated Tuesday night. So were the members of the community. Perhaps it was fitting that in the final moments of the last meeting with the Sweetwater Lake Working Group, the lights in the Eagle conference room went dark.

The Sweetwater community doesn’t want the state to manage their quiet corner of Colorado. They really don’t want Colorado Parks and Wildlife to call Sweetwater Lake a “state park.” When Gov. Jared Polis stood atop a rocky outcropping over the lake in October 2021 and announced a unique partnership between Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the White River National Forest, he said the lake had been saved. 

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Private developers had spent decades scheming plans for the 488-acre property. Golf courses, luxury homes. Even a water-bottling plant. The Forest Service took over the property adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness in the summer of 2021 after securing an $8.5 million grant from the Land and Water Conservation Fund as part of a deal involving The Conservation Fund and public fundraising by the Eagle Valley Land Trust. 

Read more from Jason Blevins via The Colorado Sun.

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