Challenge

Sweetwater Lake has an eclectic history. Nearly 100 hundred years ago, Louis “Diamond Jack” Alteri, a gangster who would later have ties to Al Capone, fled to the picturesque lake to evade authorities and rival gangsters. Since then, subsequent owners have attempted to develop the area with a large-scale resort including housing units, a hotel and a golf course, and even create a bottled water facility that would siphon water from one of its springs. The local community and the U.S. Forest Service have long wanted to see Sweetwater Lake preserved and open to the public but couldn’t compete with bids from developers and investors.

ACTION

In 2019 The Conservation Fund secured a contract to purchase Sweetwater Lake when it came on the market; a critical first step towards its protection. In 2020, thanks to grassroots support and partnerships with Eagle Valley Land Trust, Eagle and Garfield Counties, and Great Outdoors Colorado, the Fund announced its purchase of the 488-acre property. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund will make it possible for Sweetwater Lake to be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the White River National Forest—the most visited national forest in the country, and home to the popular ski areas of Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge.


Why It Matters

Once complete, the 488-acre property will be open for public recreation, including fishing, horseback riding, boating and camping, and will increase access to recreation areas like Flat Tops Wilderness, the Ute Indian Cave and the Ute-Sweetwater Trail. Critical habitat for elk, deer, osprey, bald eagles, and other wildlife, as well as an important component of the Upper Colorado River watershed will also be protected.

“We’re grateful to have the opportunity to help make Sweetwater Lake and the surrounding site amenities available to our children, grandchildren and others who visit this beautiful area. It is not too often that an opportunity like this exists to truly have an impact on the power of the outdoors in people’s lives.”

- The Wiemer Family (dedicated to Randy Wiemer, lover of Sweetwater)