Goose-gate truce looming in Green Mountain Falls

Goose-gate truce looming in Green Mountain Falls

Rick Langenberg

Local residents, tourists, weekend visitors and young kids may only have to hide from the goose police in Green Mountain Falls for a little longer.

But still, no final agreement has been reached regarding a waterfowl controversy that has tested the patience of local citizens and even some civic leaders. As a result, it’s still illegal to feed geese and ducks in GMF, even though this practice is commonly done by kids and visitors.

The issue has had big implications in the area, with a well-known Colorado Springs newspaper columnist even requesting a boycott of the community. In the last year, the goose fight has sparked much outrage, especially when Ann Pinell, a long-time resident and caretaker of many local geese and ducks at the town Gazebo and lake, was cited and fined for illegally feeding wildlife.

Last week, in an unusual meeting that included a nearly 90-minute closed door, executive session shortly after the session began, the GMF elected leaders indicated they plan to follow the recommendations of a parks committee for doing away with the current prohibition against the public feeding of geese and ducks. The trustees, though, fell short of changing its current wildlife restrictions, but expressed support for permitting this goose and duck-feeing practice at the lake with some guidance in the form of park rules. They plan to enact official changes at their next meeting, scheduled for June 16.

Dick Bratton, a representative of the parks committee and a former mayor and trustee, advised the council to amend its current laws to end the current ban against this practice of publicly feeding geese and ducks, a tradition in Green Mountain Falls for decades. “We want to allow feeding,” said Bratton, who urged the town attorney to draft language enacting this change and not making the current feeding practices a municipal violation.

But at the same time, he told the trustees that the committee planned to start a staunch public education effort to help protect the geese and ducks that wander around the lake and Gazebo area and throughout town. This effort would consist of the installation of many signs and warnings about feeding waterfowl junk food or unhealthy items, not abusing the waterfowl and not allowing domestic ducks.

He asked the trustees for swift action in ending this feeding prohibition.

However, Mayor Pro Tem Tyler Stevens didn’t want to take official action, until the committee compiled its suggested rules in detail and reviewed the current regulations. “We want to know what the rules are,” said Stevens “We are removing the safeguard. What are we putting in place?”

Mayor Lorrie Worthey, however, stated this issue has been dragged on for too long, and sought to proceed with amending the current laws, and then add the suggested park rules at a later date.

But Stevens contended that both actions should be done at the same time.

Bratton said he didn’t have any problems with delaying the matter for another two weeks, but wanted to make sure the board agreed with the committee’s pro-waterfowl feeding recommendations.

The board stated they had no problems with ending the duck and goose-feeding ban, as long as some rules are implemented.

A handful of residents who support the current geese-feeding tradition attended last week’s session. In brief comments to the board, Pinell stressed that more education is a prime effort of the committee’s campaign to end the current prohibition. “Do not drop off domestic ducks,” said Pinell, when explaining one of the new rules. “Do not harass the duck or geese… and we want to encourage people to clean up,” she added.

Pinell has maintained that the town’s abundance of waterfowl are a big local attraction.

Goose woes

Since last fall, the town has found itself in a goose and duck quagmire, with the issue experiencing many delays, with locals shaking their heads in confusion. Patrons of the Blue Moose Tavern and other businesses have dubbed the fight “Goose-gate.”

During a heated meeting last November, the trustees, in a compromise move, agreed to permit the feeding of “General Roy,” a domestic Chinese goose that can’t fly. Roy has been cared for by Pinell, who has referred to him as a mini-ambassador for Green Mountain Falls.

But under the trustees’ decision, she and all residents and visitors aren’t permitted to feed other waterfowl and are barred from directing goose traffic. It appeared that the issue would get resolved before the end of 2014.

Then, to the surprise of many residents, the trustees suddenly called a goose time-out and opted for forming a committee to review a variety of parks-related matters, including the feeding of waterfowl at the lake.

In the last few months, the group has mulled a variety of options, ranging from restricting this practice for adults to more of a free-for-all for local geese-feeding.

But some community leaders believe that a partial ban could create an enforcement nightmare. Also, concerns mounted about whether geese and ducks are considered wildlife.

The feeding of geese has been supported by many residents, who regard this practice as part of the charm of Green Mountain Falls. But some locals aren’t crazy about this tradition, citing the litter this trend creates and problems for motorists. Last summer, the wandering geese caused many traffic delays.