Colorado’s next state park will attract a lot of attention; that could be a problem for neighbors |

Colorado’s next state park will attract a lot of attention; that could be a problem for neighbors

Located near Glenwood Canyon, Sweetwater Lake includes 488 acres of gorgeous wilderness

John Meyer
The Denver Post
Tom Lotshaw/Office of the Governor
Sweetwater Lake, located in remote northeastern Garfield County in the Flat Tops, is set to become Colorado’s first state park on federal land, after it was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service in August 2021.
Tom Lotshaw/Office of the Governor

GLENWOOD CANYON — Eighteen months after the White River National Forest acquired a scenic and historic property 12 miles north of Glenwood Canyon at the doorstep of the remote Flat Tops Wilderness, officials are moving forward with plans to make it Colorado’s 43rd state park.

The 488-acre Sweetwater Lake property encompasses Colorado’s third-largest natural lake, which is framed by limestone cliffs. It currently offers limited camping, hiking, horseback riding and fishing provided by a commercial outfitter which operated there for decades when the property was privately owned. But forest officials and Colorado Parks and Wildlife see it as a gem with untapped potential, saying their goal is to improve access and modernize antiquated facilities without altering the rustic character of the site.

But before tapping that potential, they’ll have to repair the relationship with locals, who were blindsided in October 2021 when Gov. Jared Polis held a media event to announce that Sweetwater Lake would become a state park.

White River forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams acknowledges that mistakes were made early in the planning process. “I have been really open about how I messed up, about lack of communication with our partners and communities,” he said. “The governor announced it and we didn’t communicate with the locals and the county commissioners. That was a big mistake.

“We failed to treat our partners and our communities the way they are accustomed. That caused quite the backlash,” he continued. “People immediately thought of big-time state parks, and that’s not the vision. We’ve had to do a lot of backtracking on that.”

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