Wake-Up Call: No Swetsville

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

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.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.