State and federal officials are teaming up to create a new park in the northwest corner of Colorado.
The 488 acres at Sweetwater Lake will become Colorado’s 43rd state park following an announcement this week from Governor Jared Polis, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Eagle Valley Land Trust.
“Sweetwater Lake is simply gorgeous and has great potential for even more recreational opportunities like a campground,” Polis said in a statement.
The White River National Forest had acquired the property in late August. The land is located in Garfield County, which borders Utah, and rests near the Flat Tops mountain range.
The land had been identified as one of the top 10 priorities nationwide by federal officials who saw it as both a public recreation opportunity and a chance to protect wildlife and cultural and scenic values.
“We look forward to working with our partners and Coloradans with the ultimate goal; of adding Sweetwater Lake to Colorado’s world-class state park system for fun, conservation, education, and to support job growth in the region,” Polis said.
Forest officials are pleased the area will gain protections afforded property in the federal and state systems.
“Sweetwater Lake is a hidden gem, both as a destination and getaway to the Flat Top wilderness,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources. “The partnership forward to protect and manage this unique landscape is an extension of the state and federal commitment to shared stewardship.”
Sweetwater Lake is about three hours directly west of Denver, making it a reasonable trip for people looking to get away from the city and back to nature.
Polis said improvements to the park, such as a new boat launch, should be in place by next June. Future changes to the park will be made in consultation with the public, he pledged.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife is excited to modernize facilities, and provide updated and sustainable recreational services through this partnership,” said Dan Prenzlow, director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Our main priority is to conserve the unique character of the area while improving access to this incredible property.”
Justin Spring, project manager for The Conservation Fund’s Colorado office, is thrilled the government stepped in to purchase the land. It could have been a very different outcome had that not happened, he told the Colorado Sun.
“It just came so close to being lost to development and being a private, high-end resort community,” Spring said. “We were hopeful we would get to this point.”