by Rick Langenberg:
“General Roy” the popular goose ambassador for Green Mountain Falls, has received a temporary reprieve, along with the waterfowl’s main caretaker. But for the town’s large herd of geese and ducks that wander around the downtown in search of scraps of food, their fate will be determined by GMF elected leaders during a public hearing, scheduled tonight (Oct. 21). The trustees have indicated they will abide by the community’s desires regarding its geese quagmire.
At issue is the age-old tradition of locals and tourists feeding the geese and ducks at the Gazebo area, an activity that some say is a popular tourist draw and is part of the town’s charm. This practice was somewhat halted recently when GMF Police Chief Tim Bradley announced plans to enforce the town’s rules against feeding wildlife, namely duck and geese, citing a growing problem with domestic waterfowl overpopulating GMF. He said the agency would up it enforcement measures. The marshal also cited long-time resident, Ann Pinell, known as “The Goose Lady,” for feeding wildlife on Labor Day.
For six years, Pinell has tended to the needs of Roy, a domesticated Chinese Goose. “He is the town’s unofficial mascot,” quipped Pinell, who recently appeared in court and agreed to a $50 plea agreement for reported violations of feeding wildlife. She faced the prospects of a $250 fine. “These geese are the happiest geese around,” said the resident at a recent town meeting. And if the trustees opt to cut off their food supply permanently, the waterfowl will starve to death, noted Pinell. “You can’t stop cold turkey,” said Pinell
During a recent board of trustees meeting, many residents came out in force to support the long-time resident and to voice support for the plight of the geese. “We need to stop fighting as a town,” argued Diana Loyd of GMF, who questioned why the geese situation has become such big issue. “You can’t tell people they can’t enjoy the lake. There are a lot of problems besides the geese. There are 2,000 cigarette butts on the ground,” commented Loyd, when describing big litter problems around the lake
Other residents echoed similar sentiments and believe the geese attract visitors in the summer. They also reminded town leaders that geese and ducks have been a mainstay of GMF for decades. Several residents accused the board of taking an anti-wildlife stand.
In a compromise move, Bradley outlined a temporary solution, allowing Pinell to continue to feed Roy on a regular basis, until the town holds a public hearing and clarifies its current laws against feeding wildlife. Roy’s situation is unique because he is a Chinese goose and is completely domesticated and can’t fly away. But this exception in the current law would only be permitted for Roy, according to city officials. “Don’t feed the ducks and geese at all,” warned attorney Matt Krob, when outlining the meaning of its current regulations during a discussion earlier this month. And in responding to Pinell’s analysis of its goose dilemma, the GMF attorney warned her she can only feed Roy and can’t assume a role as the caretaker for the town’s armies of waterfowl “ We don’t want you to direct the geese traffic,” said Krob, when speaking directly to Pinell.
During the discussion, the trustees didn’t really get into the argument of whether to favor the geese or not. They asked repeated questions about the current law, and whether it applies to waterfowl. Krob said it did, but it is extremely broad in scope. He advised the board to tighten up its regulations. Most trustees stated they would abide by resident opinion regarding the geese scenario. Bradley, though, wants the practice of feeding geese to clearly stop. In a trustees meeting a month ago, he portrayed the invasion of geese and domestic ducks as a growing problem and part of the woes the town is now facing with other wildlife, such as bears.
Opinions also are quite mixed regarding the geese. Many residents and out-of-towners revel over the pro-geese atmosphere at the lake, a stand that has been heavily endorsed by Colorado Springs Gazette columnist Bill Vogrin, who has taken a few hefty journalistic shots at town officials. However, those views aren’t shared by all local residents. Some are clearly frustrated over delays they encounter in driving through town due to baby geese trying to cross Ute Pass Avenue and related problems with geese debris. This scenario was especially bad during the last summer, when armies of geese took over the road.