New program honors historic sits along Brush Creek Valley
A couple of years back, the Eagle County Historical Society launched a program to give locals and visitors a snapshot education about Eagle’s history.
Now a similar effort has preserved some of the colorful stories of the Brush Creek Valley.
Dave Meline, manger of Sylvan Lake State Park, approached John Bronn and Kathy Heicher of the Eagle County Historical Society to install a series of history plaques similar to those found around Eagle. The six different signs located at 10 sites are titled “Honoring Historic Brush Creek.”
“The signs provide information that our staff gets asked about on a regular basis,” said Meline. “Now visitors can discover this history on their own.”
The signs are located along the West Brush Creek Trail, at the Meadows day use area, the Borah Gulch parking area and at the Sylvan Lake dam and picnic area. They include information about the Upper Brush Creek School, the Upper Dice Ranch and the history of the lake and the area around it.
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For example, the Sylvan lake History sign details the progression of the area from hay meadow to state park starting with homesteader Anthony Sneve about 100 years ago.
“Sneve was a well-educated man who dressed fastidiously and had impeccable manners, even when dealing with cattle,” the sign notes. He was also “fiercely protective of the trout stream that ran through his property and would sometimes use a shotgun to chase away uninvited fishermen.”
In 1935, Sneve sold the property and then it changed hands several times before Swiss businessman Otto Zurcher purchased the ranch in 1945. Zurcher developed a fur farm on West Brush Creek where he raised fox and mink. Zurcher’s desire to create a fishing resort similar to the nearby Woods Lake and Crooked Creek Pass resorts resulted in his tearing down the original Sneve ranch buildings and constructing several guest cabins.
Zurcher’s vision was derailed when the U.S. Forest Service discovered that a portion of the lake he had created for his resort was located on national forest land. Then a devastating fire damaged the fur farm operation in 1956 and in 1962, the IRS seized the property for back taxes and auctioned off the assets.
The Colorado Game and Fish Department was the successful bidder and acquired the lake property. The state conducted a naming contest and christened the area Sylvan Lake.
In 1999 a coalition of state, federal and local government agencies purchased an additional 1,782 acres of private ranch land along East and West Brush Creeks to create the expanded Sylvan Lake State Park.
The new history signs were purchased with proceeds from the Sylvan Lake Donation Fund.