GMF Trustees Flee From Goose Controversy

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by Rick Langenberg:

 

The Green Mountain Falls Board of Trustees has retreated from the town’s ongoing goose quagmire, at least until next spring. The board last week promptly ended a three month controversy over the future of the town’s growing waterfowl habitat that frequently parade around the Gazebo area, attracting much attention from visitors, by opting to form a committee to study the entire GMF parks situation. “It is status quo for right now,” said Trustee David Cook, the head liaison for the parks. That means that “Roy,” a large domestic Chinese duck dubbed as a mini-ambassador for GMF by some, can still be fed on a regular basis by his informal caretaker, long-time resident Ann Pinell. Moreover, a final goose decision won’t be made until next spring or early summer.

At the outset of the scheduled Nov. 18 hearing, Cook announced that the issue surrounding the feeding of geese and ducks in GMF will be delayed indefinitely. Instead, he announced the formation of a new volunteer committee that will address a wide range of park-related issues, with a central focus on the feeding of geese and ducks in GMF and reviewing its current ordinances. The town currently has a law that bars the feeding of wildlife, but questions persist if this pertains to waterfowl, with some state wildlife officials not viewing ducks and geese as wildlife habitat.

The announcement of a forthcoming committee, though, didn’t meet the satisfaction of a group of residents who attended last week’s board of trustees hearing. Following a brief meeting last Tuesday, a few residents, who were prepared to address the board, expressed surprise at the “no verdict” scenario. Already, the issue has been delayed for several meetings.“What’s the big deal? Make a decision and move on,” noted several residents, in the lobby outside the new council chambers. Some patrons of the Blue Moose Tavern have dubbed the issue as “Goose-gate,” with many locals shaking their heads over the ordeal. “There is something very wrong with giving an eight-year-old kid a citation to court for feeding a duck or goose. Let’s make it legal to feed and move on,” stated former Mayor Dick Bratton, who has been a big supporter of continuing the current informal feeding tradition, in a letter he was prepared to read at last week’s hearing. Bratton also has argued the current prohibitions against the feeding of wildlife, developed when he served as mayor, don’t pertain to waterfowl. The former mayor has proposed setting up duck and geese food dispensers to further regulate this practice.

Bratton contended that he wasn’t happy with the decision to form a committee. “I guess I will try to be part of the new committee,” commented Pinell, who expressed confusion with the board’s decision to delay the issue indefinitely. Even those who disagree with Pinell’s self-proclaimed role as the mini-caretaker of the town’s waterfowl population, agree that a goose solution or mini-compromise is needed.

The future of the ducks and geese has emerged as a mini-controversy in recent months, with a columnist from The (Colorado Springs) Gazette newspaper warning visitors not to come to Green Mountain Falls anymore. The dispute began around Labor Day with Pinell getting a citation for illegally feeding wildlife for her actions in providing scraps of food to Roy and other waterfowl.

In a court settlement, she was fined $50 (with court costs). And later in a trustees meeting, elected leaders agreed to allow her to feed Roy, but she wasn’t permitted to feed other ducks and geese and to patrol the waterfowl traffic. During a meeting in September, Police Chief Tim Bradley informed the board of a growing problem with domestic ducks and people illegally feeding waterfowl. He said the town’s current laws bar this practice and announced a more vigorous stand against violators of its anti-wildlife feeding rules. He also cited problems with loose dogs and clashes between canines and waterfowl.

The town had several discussions on the issue, with town leaders indicating they would abide by the community’s sentiments. Unfortunately, these views have been largely mixed. Many residents have supported Pinell in her bid to continue a long-time tradition. In his recent correspondence on the issue, Bratton noted that an informal Facebook survey conducted by Mayor Lorrie Worthey indicated that a far majority of residents favor the geese feeding.

However, some residents have cited growing traffic problems with the increase in the duck and geese habitat in the summer months and debris in the parks. This problem was more pronounced last summer with the high level of precipitation leading to more visible sights of ducks and geese in GMF. Motorists were often subjected to substantial delays in driving through GMF on the main road. Critics of the practices also say the feeding isn’t good for the duck and geese habitat.

With wintertime approaching, the town’s geese and duck population has decreased immensely. As a result, Cook and the trustees believe now is a good time to evaluate the current situation. But critics of the current board say the leaders are going overboard in forming mini-committees to evaluate every issue, from city finances to restructuring the government.