By Basha Cohen, Vice Chair Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation
The beach and the boardwalk are packed with people from all around Denver, reminiscent of Atlantic City on a Saturday in July.
The evening dinner boat cruise is ready to set sail as the water skiing championships are winding down for the day. Sound too good to be true in the middle of Denver? It’s not. It is exactly what Sloan’s Lake used to be and could be again.
SLOAN’S LAKE IS GETTING A NEW LEASE ON LIFE
The Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation (SLPF) is working hard to improve the health, sustainability, and beauty of one of Denver’s top natural assets. Rising heat, shallow depth— an average of a little more than three feet— and poor water circulation have combined to speed up the lake’s decline. The foundation’s mission is to partner with the community and city to save this precious resource.
SLPF board member Dennis Ryerson reflected, “Old Thomas Sloan didn’t know what he was doing in 1861 when he dug a hole for a well, tapping an underground spring that was the beginning of a 200-acre body of water. The lake has seen a beach, amusement park, gun club, and multi-level cruise boats come and go. Sadly, in only one more generation, the lake itself will go if steps aren’t taken now to rescue our local treasure.”
THE SLPF APPROACH
SLPF has worked with Denver Parks & Recreation (DPR) since 2021 to define the lake’s issues and the best possible solutions. They spearheaded a survey of lake users on DPR’s behalf to determine the level of awareness of the lake issues, how people use the lake and park, and where people using Sloan’s Lake live.
Clean-up efforts have included mapping the lake bottom, installing test equipment to measure water quality, and installing a demonstration aerator near the jetty that determines the effectiveness of oxygenating the water.
During this summer, Parks and Recreation has been treating the lake to stop dangerous algae blooms. Cinceré Eades, the Denver Resiliency and Trails program supervisor for planning, design, and construction, explained, “We are distributing a product called ‘Phoslock’. This product binds phosphorus and helps prevent algae blooms.”
THE LONG-TERM FIX
The long-term health of the lake will only be addressed with some big projects and substantial investment. SLPF and DPR are pulling together the stakeholders and team that are needed to first stop the sediment from flowing into the lake, and then dredge the lake to bring it back to full health. Initial conversations with Anchor QEA, environmental engineers dedicated to water resources, are helping define the scope and cost of the project.
They successfully dredged Lake Arrowhead in California through a neighborhood- led initiative much like this one. Kurt Weaver, SLPF’s Lake Advocate, explains the next steps.
“First is cleaning the forebays (filters) that are currently installed around the lake,” Weaver said. “These big ‘wells’ act as a filter for sediment that flows into the lake, but needs to be cleaned out frequently to ensure they are working properly. Next, we need all of the ‘upstream’ municipalities and private businesses to address the issue of sediment in the water they send to the lake. The runoff from streets and parking lots create the bulk of this material. Lakewood, Edgewater, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, and other communities need to help with this work. Finally, we will need to dredge the lake to return the depth of the water to a healthy and usable level. Currently, the lake averages 3.5 feet in depth. Healthy would be at least 5.5 feet, and usable could be as deep as 12 feet. After testing, the experts will know exactly how much material needs to be removed.”
LAKE ADVOCATES MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
Community action to save the lake is being taken by solid business citizens like Odell Brewing whose doors opened a stone’s throw away from the banks of Sloan’s Lake in 2021. What makes this taproom different is its commitment to the good earth and clean water. From day one Odell’s has hosted lake cleanups on a monthly basis in partnership with Protect our Rivers (POR).
“Since we started the lake clean-ups 483 volunteers have spent 774 hours and removed 15,483 pounds of trash from Sloan’s Lake,” said Sarah Nelson, director of POR.
Members of SLPF and neighborhood RNOs like Sloan’s Lake Citizen Group plus countless citizens have started the simple step of making a difference.
“We all care, but as individuals, we don’t always know what we can do to make a difference or that the difference we make matters,” Nelson said. “We do make a difference, and the more people who join us, the bigger the impact we will make.”
Here are some upcoming events to benefit the lake:
AUGUST 25, 5:30-8PM: SLPF FUNDRAISER
The Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation invites you to a reception and discussion to “Celebrate Sloan’s Lake,” its history, current state, and plans for a bright future. Suggested donation: $100. RSVP required, kurt@sloanslakeparkfoundation.
SEP. 12, 4-6 P.M.: EDUCATIONAL HAPPY HOUR AT ODELL BREWING
If you would like to learn more and be a part of the movement to #SaveSloansLake, SLPF is locking arms with Odell Brewing to host an educational happy hour from 4-6 p.m. Sep. 12. Lake updates and Q&A will be hosted featuring SLPF, Denver Parks & Recreation, Anchor QEA (a dredging firm), and Protect our Rivers to educate the community on progress and ways to engage. Odell’s will be serving a special “Jamming on the Jetty” tap beer along with happy hour bites and frozen dessert from another lake advocate, Little Man Ice Cream.
SEPT 18, 9-11 A.M.: JAMMING ON THE JETTY LAKE CLEAN UP
What better way to show your love and commitment to the lake than a post Jamming on the Jetty clean-up the day after the big event? Protect our Rivers will be hosting a special lake clean-up from 9-11AM followed by a free beer at Odell Brewing. To sign up: protectourrivers.org.
JOIN THE TEAM TO #SAVESLOANSLAKE If you are interested in being part of the movement to #SaveSloansLake through volunteerism, support, or donations contact sloanslakeparkfoundation.org or email info@ sloanslakeparkfoundation.org.