Trust Our Land: Help Us Save Sweetwater Lake
By Bergen Tjossem. Photos by Todd Winslow Pierce
Nestled between the Flat Tops Wilderness and the White River National Forest lies one of our community’s most beautiful hidden gems – Sweetwater Lake – and we’ve got one shot to protect it for our community, forever.
Sweetwater Lake and the surrounding land has changed ownership several times in the last 100 years. What hasn’t changed, however, is its importance, splendor, and role in our community. Previous owners had allowed the public to visit the property and enjoy access to the lake, trails, and the Ute cave, which is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places since it’s one of the only known Ute pictograph sites in the region.
Over a decade ago, the property was purchased with a plan to develop a world-class resort, water bottling plant, golf course, and luxury homes as a vacation paradise with no public access. Those plans were unsuccessful. Public access was closed and the property went up for sale.
Fortunately, The Conservation Fund (TCF), a national conservation organization, managed to secure a contract to purchase the property amidst competing bids from private developers. Now TCF, the Eagle Valley Land Trust, a variety of partners, and our community are raising awareness and funds to close the deal.
Local fundraising efforts, in combination with funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, would allow the U.S. Forest Service to purchase the property from TCF and integrate it into the White River National Forest so it can reopen to the public.
Jim Daus, EVLT’s executive director, noted, “since we started working on the Save the Lake campaign, we’ve been surprised and delighted by the excitement within and well beyond our community. Supporters from all walks of life and from across the country are coming together to conserve this place. In addition to important wildlife habitat, it is an important meeting place, access point to surrounding public lands, and a piece of our heritage.”
Protecting Sweetwater Lake means creating new public recreational access for fishing, horseback riding, boating, and camping; opening access to surrounding public lands including Flat Tops Wilderness, White River National Forest (the most visited National Forest in the U.S.), and the Ute Trail; conserving critical habitat for elk, deer, osprey, bald eagles, and other wildlife; protecting the upper Colorado watershed; and creating new interpretive opportunities around the historic Ute Cave.
Our community needs you and there are two ways you can make a big difference right now. Go to www.evlt.org/savethelake to learn more.
Bergen Tjossem is the communications and development manager at the Eagle Valley Land Trust. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. EVLT is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. For more about the Eagle Valley Land Trust and how it is conserving land and benefiting the community, visit http://www.evlt.org.