Trust Our Land: Your input matters for the future of Sweetwater Lake
Trust Our Land
After years of work beginning in 2019, the Conservation Fund successfully transferred Sweetwater Lake into public hands — The White River National Forest — on Aug. 31, 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.
Shortly after the purchase, the Sweetwater Lake Partnership was formed between Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Eagle Valley Land Trust, and the U.S. Forest Service to create and implement a long-term plan improving public access to Sweetwater Lake, enhancing the recreation opportunities historically offered in the Sweetwater Lake area, and protecting the social and natural characteristics of the area.
Creating a shared vision for the property was the first step toward working together. After looking back on the Save the Lake Campaign and public comments, as well as a shared duty to steward the property, the partnership agreed on a vision statement: “Sweetwater Lake is where current and future generations of Americans can recreate, connect with the natural environment, appreciate the cultural and natural history, and experience the freedom from the developed world like their grandparents may have 50 years ago; connecting with our western heritage. Here partnerships are paramount to deliver public benefits. Sweetwater Lake provides cultural, historic and social value to local communities.”
Three overarching goals were also defined to guide the collaborative visioning process:
- Improve access, modernize facilities, and provide updated and sustainable recreational services that are appropriate to the environment, desired by the public and keeping within the character of the area.
- Retain and protect the natural and social characteristics of the area.
- Incorporate public input while honoring the historical legacy of this special place during the planning process.
“Over the last year, the partnership has been working closely to begin creating a long-term management plan for Sweetwater Lake, considering feedback from public meetings in early 2022 and ongoing engagement efforts with the local community,” said CPW Park Manager Mark Lehman. “Concurrently, the partnership has undertaken several projects including the purchase and installation of a new boat dock to improve access to the lake, resource inventories of the property to help guide management decisions, as well as the enhancement of amenities for visitors to the Sweetwater property.”
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In addition, the Eagle Valley Land Trust provided funding from the Sweetwater Stewardship & Equity Fund to hire two Forest Service staff to assist in the maintenance of the site, while working to educate the public on changes to the Sweetwater property.
March 6 public visioning meeting
Have you visited the Sweetwater Lake area? Do you have ideas for how this area could be managed in the future? You’re invited to join the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Eagle Valley Land Trust at upcoming public meetings to discuss your vision for Sweetwater Lake. The meeting will provide background and context for the project as well as the stakeholder engagement to date and current ideas for the long-term vision of the area. Your voice is valued as we develop the vision for public lands. Spanish interpretation will be offered during the meeting as well. The virtual meeting will be held on Monday, Mar 6, 2023 from 6-7:30 p.m. Please register at https://cpw.info/sweetwater-lake-public-meeting.
Feedback from these meetings will help provide guidance as the partnership works to create management strategies for the lake area to allow for increased public access while protecting the site’s social, natural, cultural resource values.
“This will not be the only opportunity for public comment,” said Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger Leanne Veldhuis. “Once a proposed action is developed this spring or summer, the Forest Service will initiate an environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act.”
Did you know that a comment form is still live at http://www.evlt.org/sweetwater? In addition, the Sweetwater Partnership has updated the page with new information and frequently asked questions. Is Sweetwater a State Park? How will the wildlife, cultural, natural, and social values be managed on the site? What is NEPA? Answers to those questions and many more are live on the site.