Wake-Up Call: No Swetsville

Even in a state full of stunning scenery, many of Colorado's most remarkable sights are man-made. A castle made out of stuff in southern Colorado. A tower filled with stuff out on the plains in Genoa.

And north in Tinmath, just off I-25 by Fort Collins, the Swetsville Zoo, a metal menagerie created by Bill Swets out of old farm-machine parts over the past 25 years, occasionally supplemented with corn mazes and other oddities -- when the local authorities weren't trying to bind Swets's vision with red tape.

Swets, who founded Tinmath's volunteer fire department with his brother, started creating these fantastic creatures as a way of relaxing after work. "You come home at two o'clock in the morning after scraping someone off the interstate or cleaning up a suicide, you can't sleep," he told Marty Jones for a 1998 Westword story. "Some guys can handle that. I can't. So I'd go out to the shop and work off my frustrations. A lot of these things were built between two and six in the morning."

Yesterday morning, the animals started leaving the zoo.

As Kristen Browning-Blas reports in today's Denver Post, Harmony Road east of the Interstate is being widened (there's a Wal-Mart going in), and the Swetsville Zoo is in the way. So the sculptures closest to the project are being moved, and at some point in the not-so-distant future, the rest of the seventy-odd (some very odd) sculptures will be stored until the town of Tinmath can create a new park.

But a new, town-designed park will never have the same delightful wackiness of the original Swetsville Zoo, a magnificent monument to one man's magnificent obsession.


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