Jamming on the Jetty Brings Rising Tide of Consciousness to #SaveSloansLake

By Basha Cohen

The 8th annual Jamming on the Jetty music festival took place at Sloan’s Lake Boat House on Sept. 16, and what a jam it was. Sloan’s Lake Operations Supervisor Roxanne Vigil and her team made the entire jetty sparkle on the glorious summer day. An estimated 3,000-3,500 guests came through the gates of this once-upon-a-time sleepy music jam that first welcomed around 20 people in 2016. 

The Worn Outs. Photo by Basha Cohen
The Worn Outs. Photo by Basha Cohen

The cross-section of entertainment featured four live bands including extemporaneous jazz by DAES, pop punk with The Worn Outs, bluegrass with NoGo Gillbillies and funk-soul fusion with Hand Turkey. Plus, two interactive dance sets had the crowds on their feet learning how to hula with Kalama Polynesian Dancers and soul line dance with Chicago Edmonds. One particularly impressive 86-year-old, Beatrice Clark, danced the entire day from 1-8 p.m. She was undoubtedly the show-stopper of the party.

Kalama Polynesian Dancers. Photo by Basha Cohen
Kalama Polynesian Dancers. Photo by Basha Cohen

Alex Whittier, a founding member of The 87 Foundation who is putting a renewed spotlight on music at El Chapultepec and helping to revitalize Denver’s night-time economy commented, “It was such a great mix of music, and no one thinks about activating band breaks. The dancing added so much to the energy.” 

The Dragon Boat Festival provided rides on the lake, and Trishaw Bikes from Cycling without Age pedaled elders around the lake showing off the beautiful mountain-framed lakefront. Little Man’s bouncy castle kept the action in high gear in the Kids Zone, as did neighborhood bluegrass favorite, Clare Allen Vardaman from Old Fuss & Feathers and Rocky Mountain Aardvarks. She wowed the kids with a collaborative hootenanny.

The notable difference between 2016 and 2023 was heightened awareness and involvement from concerned neighbors that Sloan’s Lake needs saving. Once 18- to 20-feet deep, the lake is now a precarious 3.5 feet deep on average and requires remediation efforts. This year’s Jamming on the Jetty continues to support Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation’s (SLPF) mission to #SaveSloansLake. 

Close to $50,000 was raised by the community, which goes directly toward heightening education and activation that will bring Sloan’s Lake back to its former glory. A music festival can’t pay the bills for the foundation’s ultimate mission to dredge the lake, but it brings the need for community involvement to the forefront. 

Jamming on the Jetty founder AJ Steinke (left) with Sloan's Lake Park Foundation board members and friends (from left: Lauren Ris, Stuart Miner, Dennis Ryerson and Sarah Secrist). Photo by Harry Warters
Jamming on the Jetty founder AJ Steinke (left) with Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation board members and friends (from left: Lauren Ris, Stuart Miner, Dennis Ryerson and Sarah Secrist). Photo by Harry Warters

“Activities regarding the lake are ramping up,” Dennis Ryerson, secretary of SLPF, said. “The education committee is preparing a monthly newsletter updating residents about lake issues, and activities of the foundation. 

“The committee is also planning a private educational lake walk for a local business, and future walks for other organizations and interested residents,” Ryerson continued. During the walk-and-talks, attendees will learn about the lake’s history and natural and human-made structures affecting the lake. Ongoing lake clean-ups are also ingrained in the foundation’s programming.

“The city has done a preliminary analysis of sediment in the lake showing the absence of toxic materials,” Ryerson noted, “and if further analysis confirms those results, the cost of future dredging of the lake could be greatly reduced as dredged material could be disposed of more easily.”

Ryerson emphasized, “The only goal of the foundation is to restore the lake’s condition so it can better support recreational activities such as fishing and water sports, and ensure that this treasured resource can serve residents and lake habitats far into the future.” 

SLPF works to educate residents about the lake’s history and water-quality issues, and to build public support for expensive but necessary steps to restore Sloan’s Lake to health. SLPF works in partnership with Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR). The foundation, DPR, Councilwoman Amanda P. Sandoval, city and state politicians, and a triage unit of water engineers and sediment specialists are working to find solutions. 

Jessica Andersen, DPR urban ecology supervisor, enlightened Jamming on the Jetty attendees about current plans including the re-introduction of more native grasses to the park. She noted some of the ways people can help repair the lake. 

“The Sloan’s Lake Park Operations team practices lake-friendly maintenance by limiting mowing and maintenance of native landscapes around the lake to ensure healthy buffers to filter nutrients at the source. This team also eliminated phosphorus from all park fertilizers,” she said. “DPR would like to remind neighbors that Sloan’s Lake receives a large amount of stormwater runoff from across the watershed that covers parts of Denver, Lakewood, Edgewater, Wheat Ridge and unincorporated Jefferson County. All residents of this watershed are encouraged to eliminate the use of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers, clean up and compost your yard trimmings, and remember to pick up after your pets.” 

Denver Parks and Recreation introduces native grasses. Sunrise at Sloan’s Lake. Photo by Basha Cohen
Denver Parks and Recreation introduces native grasses. Sunrise at Sloan’s Lake. Photo by Basha Cohen

DPR launched the Sloan’s Lake Environmental Assessment earlier this spring. Their first community meeting on May 18 began the discussion surrounding the lake’s health. Currently, DPR has contracted an environmental consulting firm to assess Sloan’s Lake. This analysis includes bathymetric mapping (a topographic map of the lake floor), water-quality sensor installation and analysis, and sediment sampling. Water quality sensors were installed in the summer of 2021 to collect real-time data on the water conditions within the lake. 

Analysis of this data will assist in understanding the existing conditions along with changes over time to guide decision-making on how to best manage the lake. DPR is also coordinating with the Mile High Flood District to analyze the quality of water entering the lake. This study includes the watershed outside of the city and county of Denver in Lakewood, Wheat Ridge, Jefferson County and Edgewater. 

Andersen said, “Now that we have a full picture of the lake’s existing conditions the consultant team will start to develop recommendations on how to achieve the community’s recreation and environmental goals for the lake. The next community meeting will be held later this fall.”

The Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation is seeking donations, volunteers and support. Be part of the move to #SaveSloansLake by contacting the foundation at Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation or email info@sloanslakeparkfoundation.org. 

Basha Cohen is the vice chair of the Sloan’s Lake Park Foundation and a frequent contributor to The Denver North Star.

1 Comment

  1. Science teacher and neighborhood resident here. I’ve been curious for years about this Denver gem. I like the way Basha integrates social and environmental awareness and valuable information in this article. The final photo is cool, except that it could also be Denver getting nuked 😉
    Do local schools make use of this park? Seems like a no-brainer.

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