Trust Our Land: Protecting and enhancing Sweetwater Lake for the long-haul
Trust Our Land
From a hideout for infamous gangster, Diamond Jack, to a potential water bottling plant and luxury resort, Sweetwater Lake’s history is long and storied. Visions for this incredible property have come and gone.
But now, one story has stuck: conservation. What began as a long-shot conservation dream is now a reality. For decades, Sweetwater Lake has been a recreation amenity for our community, a closely guarded prize, a hometown treasure.
At the same time, it has been in a constant state of transition. Ambitious prospectors and developers have passed the property, a 488-acre inholding within the White River National Forest, for decades from buyer to buyer, without being able to capitalize on development visions.
After two years of work, The Conservation Fund successfully transferred Sweetwater Lake into public hands — The White River National Forest — on August 31st, 2021. The Conservation Fund purchased the land in 2020 with help from a big local fundraising effort, The “Save the Lake” Campaign, and a loan from Great Outdoors Colorado, to prevent any potential development while the U.S. Forest Service awaited funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This new land acquisition will protect wildlife habitat and create new recreational access for the general public to enjoy boating, fishing, swimming and camping.
“I’m thrilled Sweetwater Lake will be officially incorporated into the White River National Forest after we secured full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund last year,” said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet after the transfer. “This move not only protects Sweetwater Lake by making it public land, but also boosts Colorado’s economy and improves recreation access for the millions of people who visit the White River National Forest every year. I’m thankful for the collaboration between The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Forest Service on this project.”
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“Sweetwater Lake is beloved by the community, and we’re honored to play a role in protecting this Colorado gem for the benefit of the public and the wildlife,” said Justin Spring, Colorado state director at The Conservation Fund. “Colorado’s Congressional delegation has worked hard to secure LWCF funding for Colorado, so we’re thrilled to see it go to such an exceptional project like Sweetwater Lake.”
In addition to this massive conservation success, The Conservation Fund has left our community with another gift: A $1.1 Million Sweetwater Lake Stewardship & Equity Fund, entrusted to the Eagle Valley Land Trust.
“We’re delighted to announce our Sweetwater Lake Stewardship and Equity Fund, which will assist the Eagle Valley Land Trust and our agency partners in activating the property for public use and enhancing opportunities for underserved communities to enjoy the space for years to come,” said Spring.
The Stewardship & Equity Fund will be used for recreation-related improvements such as new dock construction, trail maintenance and signage, and archaeological and natural resource stewardship. It is also designed to assist in identifying and addressing local barriers to accessing this new public property. It will be deployed to enhance opportunities for underserved communities to enjoy Sweetwater Lake and all that it has to offer.
“The Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement has made big strides in connecting local youth and families to our outdoor spaces throughout the county over the past four years,” said Oliver Skelly, EVLT’s Community Conservation Coordinator. “The Stewardship & Equity Fund will heighten our ability to collaborate with EVOM and other partners to make Sweetwater Lake a valuable asset for every person in our community and reduce barriers to accessing it, such as transportation.”
“The money that was raised to purchase Sweetwater Lake and has gone towards our Stewardship & Equity Fund is a testament to the community’s support and dedication to see this special place protected forever. We’re thrilled to now put those funds right back into the property for the community,” said Spring.
What barriers exist for you and your family to access Sweetwater Lake? Email Bergen@evlt.org so EVLT can help address them with the Sweetwater Stewardship & Equity Fund.