Did you know Sloan’s Lake was created by accident?
Around 1861, Thomas M. Sloan was attempting to dig a well to irrigate his farm when he broke into a water aquifer, according to the Denver Library and resident Basha Cohen.
Mission solved right? Well, history says he went to bed and woke up to a 200-acre lake that spread all across his farmland. That was the birth of Sloan’s Lake and the beginning of the neighborhood’s rich history.
Cohen is a longtime Sloan’s Lake resident. She remembers ice skating on the lake as a kid. Her parents would tell her stories of pushing her in a stroller across the lake during the winter months to visit her grandmother on the other side.
Folks could swim and boat back in the days and at one point, an amusement park, Manhattan Beach, was created on the lake’s shoreline.
On the surface, Sloan’s Lake looks fine but, according to Cohen, the lake’s in trouble. Warming temperatures and runoff from nearby neighborhoods and construction in the Sloan’s Lake area have caused the lake to suffer. At one point, Cohen said the lake was about 18 feet deep. Now, it’s averaging about 3.5 feet in depth. Last year, the lake closed due to toxic levels of blue-green algae and in 2020 about 400 fish died in a single week due to a fish-kill caused by algae and warming temperatures.
“Within the next generation, this lake will disappear if we don’t do something to fix it,” Cohen said. “This is one of the most beautiful lakes in Denver. It’s framed by the Rocky Mountains. It has the most magical sunsets and sunrises. But we have to do our part to fix it.”
Cohen is the vice-chair of the Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation and their goal is to save Sloan’s Lake.
The organization has been working with Denver Parks and Recreation to pinpoint the issues of the lake while also finding short and long-term solutions. Some of those short-term solutions include cleanup efforts and installing water quality equipment.
Cohen said cleaning the surrounding area is simple but to really save the lake, the long-term solutions need to be addressed and that costs money. Some of those solutions include maintaining an existing forebay, which filters out sediments, and installing additional ones. Later, the lake could be dredged to bring it back to full health.
One of the ways the foundation is working to get that funding and also bring awareness to the lake’s needs is through the Jamming on the Jetty Music Festival.
On Saturday, the festival returns for its sixth year. Starting at 2 p.m. folks can head to the northside of the lake near the Boat House and Jetty at Byron Place and Utica. The event is free and there will be beer stands, food trucks and local vendors.
And, of course, there’s music. Bianca Herbert & The Flyboys, a swing band, will open the show. Dzirae Gold, a 6-Piece soul band will follow, and the headliner is 2MX2 a Latinx Alternative pop-hip hop band.
The festival was started in 2016 by A.J. Steinke and Vanessa Vaughan as a way to activate the lake for neighbors and music lovers. Now the festival is run by the Foundation, who’s using the event as a fundraiser for the lake, with proceeds going towards both the short and long-term solutions.
“Every dollar we earn goes back to the lake,” Cohen said. “It’s about education, activation and cleaning it up.”
While the festival is still centered around fun and community involvement, Cohen hopes folks look around and hopefully feel inspired to work toward saving the lake.
And if participants do feel inspired, they can attend the Post-Jamming on the Jetty Lake Clean Up on Sunday. Along with the Foundation, the cleanup is hosted by Protect our Rivers and Odell Brewing Co.
Folks interested can head to 17th and Perry at 9:30 a.m. Protect Our Rivers will provide gloves, trash bags, grabbers and all other cleaning supplies.
Separate from all of these events, there will be another lake cleanup Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This cleanup event is hosted by Keep Nature Wild, a small business focused on picking up one pound of trash for every piece of apparel they sell, and National CleanUp Day, a nonprofit that works to clear litter from public spaces.
Cohen said the more awareness, the better for the lake. Recently, Cohen, through the Denver North Star, hosted a photo contest where participants could send in their images of Sloan’s Lake. The winners will be announced at the festival but Cohen said the photos were a big reminder on why saving the lake is so important.
Besides the historical aspects, Cohen said the lake does bring the community together both in Sloan’s Lake residents and Denverites overall. She’s hoping events like the festival and other cleanup efforts garner attention before it’s too late.
“You don’t get this stuff in perpetuity unless you work on it and care for it and advocate for it,” Cohen said. “Come to the lake cleanups or do it on your own when you’re walking the dog. Pick up the trash, you have a bag anyways. Those little things go a long way. It’s our lake. It’s our future.”
Clarification: This article has been updated to note Sloan’s Lake already has one forebay and additional ones are needed.