Residents make splash to fill lake

By Bryan Grossman
Tri-Lakes Tribune
Published April 20, 2005

The Awake the Lake (ATL) committee received staunch support and a vote of confidence from the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board April 12.

The Parks board voted to recommend a payment of up to $30,000 for the filling and maintaining of Palmer Lake. The Board of El Paso County Commissioners will make the final decision in the next two or three weeks.

Committee chairperson and self-proclaimed “water czar” Jeff Hulsmann presented the parks board with the committee’s fundraising efforts to fill the town’s namesake.

Hulsmann stated, since the county owns the surface rights to the lake and leases the park property surrounding the lake from the town, the county should be involved in the resurrection effort.

“We feel like we are in good shape,” Hulsmann said, referring to the $12,500 raised by the committee at the time of the advisory meeting. “But this is a county park and we’d like county participation. We’re just here looking for your support.

Hulsmann said he would like to see a contribution of $15,000 from the county to help offset water costs of a one-time fill. Hulsmann said he expected costs to “significantly fill” the lake to be in the ball park of $30,000.

Board Chairperson Nancy Hobbs agreed the county should offer assistance, and added, since the county is contributing six figures to the Prospect Lake project in Colorado Springs, the committee should pay all costs for a one-time fill.

We are giving $200,000 to the Prospect Lake project,” Hobbs said. “Why not contribute the full $30,000?”

Board member David Zook disagreed with Hobbs’ assessment.

“I don’t think if (the ATL committee) came here looking for $15,000 we should automatically give them more,” Zook said.

Hobbs defended her position.

“The Palmer Lake funds already raised could go towards other amenities,” Hobbs said. “I’m an advocate for providing the entire amount. I think it’s a good investment.

“I think we need to look at the message we are sending to the town’s people. We are allotting $200,000 here, and $30,000 really isn’t that much. I don’t want it to seem like we are nickel-and-diming (Palmer Lake). That’s the wrong message to send. I think we should give them what they need to fill the lake.

El Paso County Parks Director Tim Wolken, who acted as liaison between the county parks board and the ATL committee, explained that the budget contained $1.5 million for the entire year, and needed to be spent responsibly, but he did not deter the committee from recommending to the Board of El Paso County Commissioners (BoCC) that the entire amount be allotted.

Committee members questioned Hulsmann on issues such as seepage, past dredging and recreational amenities regarding the lake.

Hulsmann explained that the one-time fill would not be a permanent solution and that augmentation has always helped keep the lake healthy. Hulsmann said the town is looking to obtain permanent storage rights, so the lake could be filled from the reservoir before having to send water downstream.

“Twenty to 25 percent of the water had always been augmented by the town,” Hulsmann said.

Addressing Zook’s concerns regarding the contribution of additional funds, Hulsmann said that any money left over after the one-time fill would go toward the legal fees related to obtaining storage rights.

“The money wouldn’t go to waste,” Hulsmann said. “It would be nice to have a nest-egg for future augmentation, at least.

As far as lake recreation was concerned, Wolken explained since the county owns surface rights to the lake, any recreational activities, such as boating, would be the responsibility of the county.

“That would be a nice problem to have—water in the lake so we can debate whether or not to allow boating, “Wolken said.

Following discussion, Zook made a motion to recommend that the county approve $15,000 for the ATL Committee. The motion was unanimously passed.

Board member Juel Kjeldsen it would be shortsighted of the board to under-allot funds that would require the ATL committee to return in the future to ask for more.

Kjeldsen made a motion that the board recommend no more than $30,000 to the ATL committee.

“I can’t think of a better way to spend the money,” Kjeldsen said. “If we wrap this up now, (the ATL committee) will not have to come back later.