Sweetwater residents warn federal, state officials they are ready to fight plans for Colorado’s43rd state park | VailDaily.com

Sweetwater residents warn federal, state officials they are ready to fight plans for Colorado’s43rd state park

A group of Sweetwater residents tasked with helping the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife craft a plan for the first-of-its-kind state park at Sweetwater Lake ask “are you truly listening?”

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
On the water at Sweetwater Lake on the southeastern side of the Flat Tops area.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

GYPSUM — Sweetwater Lake is supposed to be the state’s 43rd state park. A 2019 “Save The Lake” fundraising campaign helped the White River National Forest land its largest contribution from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to acquire the 488-acre property above the Colorado River. A one-of-a-kind partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife is planned to modernize the property’s facilities and manage recreation at the remote lake surrounded by homes and wilderness at the end of a long dirt road. 

Now, the community of Sweetwater is raising a red flag. After two years of meetings with the Forest Service and CPW, a group of residents last week warned the federal and state agencies that the community is ready to stop cooperating and start fighting as plans unfold for a highly trafficked destination.

“I think we have moved from ‘save the lake’ to ‘save the community,’” said Janet Rivera, who raised her family near Sweetwater Lake.

The 11-member Sweetwater Lake community group — which has been meeting with the Forest Service, CPW and Eagle Valley Land Trust to hammer out a plan for the property — warned that a lack of progress on short-term plans for the lake and its nearly 40-year operator is eroding their support for a state park. 

“We feel these meetings have been largely unproductive and are being used to make it seem as if we support the state park effort,” longtime Sweetwater resident Derrick Wiemer said, reading a letter outlining his group’s revolt at a meeting last Tuesday in Gypsum. “We also feel these meetings may potentially be used as a way to check a public input box … our trust continues to be broken.”

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The Forest Service, CPW and Sweetwater community are creating a first-of-its-kind process for converting private property into a federally-owned, state-managed park. Now the community is threatening to back out of the process and pull its support from the cooperative effort. Both the Forest Service and CPW have said community involvement is critical to the creation of a new park.

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