A lot of time has passed since Awake the lake was formed, and we thought it would be beneficial to publish this article to help people understand what it does, and why it exists.
Initial Creation and lake restoration project:
The Palmer Lake Restoration Project, Inc. – a Colorado non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation (a/k/a Awake the Lake and Awake Palmer Lake) – was formed by concerned local residents back in 1995 to try and work towards the restoration of the Lake and surrounding parks, which due to drought and budget issues had fallen into disrepair. Some progress was made, and the committee was inactive for a number of years until the prolonged drought cycle from 2002 through 2013, combined with State restrictions on what water could legally be artificially added to the lake, resulted in a completely dry lake bed in 2013.
At that point, Awake the Lake was re-established (both legally and on the ground). Awake the Lake volunteers worked with Town staff and the Town’s own water attorneys, who legally changed certain water rights owned by the Town to create a viable source of supplemental fill to what is otherwise a natural body of water. The Town, however, lacked the funding, staff and know-how to push these issues, and as it is important that the Town of Palmer Lake actually have a namesake lake, Awake the Lake began in earnest its grassroots fundraising efforts, as well as a study of the Lake.
Awake the Lake embarked on geotechnical, geologic, hydrogeologic and engineering studies to try and better understand what the natural means of fill of the Lake are, and how similar dry ups might be prevented during future droughts — Palmer Lake does not currently have any source of surface inflow, nor any outlets, being a glacially formed lake not located on the channels of nearby Monument Creek, nor Plum Creek to the north. Awake the Lake simultaneously took advantage of the Lake being completely empty to remove non-native soils and silts that had built up in the bottom of the Lake over time, making it very shallow, and very sensitive to drought – the Lake simply held a lot less water than historically, making drought impacts that much worse. As part of those studies conducted by volunteer professionals, including cooperative efforts with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs’ geology department, Awake the Lake learned that the lake does not fill from the “bottom up” — the Lake is not on top of a spring, but rather fills from shallow spring water inflows primarily on the western edges of the Lake. Awake the Lake also learned that the Railroads had, decades or perhaps a century ago, enlarged the Lake to the south for purposes of storing additional water for provision to steam engines, but also for creating a shallow area in the Lake where ice could be harvested during winter months. In order to ensure the Lake’s legal status as viewed by the State remain as a “natural lake”, Awake Palmer Lake utilized the spoils obtained from removal of non-native soils and sediments as a means to fill the often-sedgey and shallow south end of the Lake and restore the Lake to its natural footprint.
In 2015, upon completion of Awake the Lake’s initial project, the drought broke in earnest, and the Town simultaneously completed their work in water court to change a senior water right to municipal uses that included supplemental fill of Palmer Lake, and Palmer Lake refilled. 2015 saw the wettest May in over 70 years, and the rains and spring activity naturally filled the lake by nearly 8 feet on the north end. On June 24, 2015, Palmer Lake began supplementing Lake levels with the Town of Palmer Lake’s old industrial water rights, now changed, and the Town can now supplement the natural fill of the Lake with up to 8.4 acre feet per month, and up to 67 acre feet per year. Drinking and household water needs continue to have top priority over recreational and aesthetic uses. The Division of Wildlife began again stocking Palmer Lake with fish in the fall of 2015. Awake the Lake continues to study the Lake. including monthly data collection by a volunteer, through a series of monitoring wells constructed around the perimeter of the Lake, precipitation data, and Town water contributions, to try and better understand how the groundwater levels surrounding the lake are seasonally and drought affected, and how such fluctuations affect Lake levels. Awake the Lake continues to explore how the lone historical surface water inflow to the Lake at the northwest corner, which 30 years ago was blocked by the Railroad in their efforts to diminish flooding of their tracks, might also be restored.
With the emergent Lake issues seemingly resolved, Awake the Lake turned its efforts towards improvements of parks and amenities surrounding the Lake, obtaining on the Town’s behalf a $350,000 matching grant from Great Outdoors Colorado for improvement of the “Rockin the Rails” parks, including improvements to parking facilities along Highway 105, and the centerpiece of the project: a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks connecting Town-proper to the Lake and its parks. The Rockin’ the Rails park includes a disc-golf course, and where ultimately will include multi-use playing/ball fields for local youth.
501 (C) (3) Status:
Due to an error by a consultant to the Palmer Lake Restoration Project which made it appear as though the committee had not filed its tax returns for 3 consecutive years, in 2017 the IRS placed the committee on its “501(c)(3) status revoked” list, though tax returns had actually been timely filed, simply with an error as to the applicable Tax ID number. Awake Palmer Lake/Palmer Lake Restoration Project was advised by the IRS by letter dated October 31, 2019 that its 501(c)(3) stats had been officially restored, with such restoration retroactive to the 2017 revocation date. Awake Palmer Lake has been, is and remains a 501(c)(3) entity and all donations to the Palmer Lake Restoration Project/Awake Palmer Lake, both prior and future, remain fully tax deductible.
The volunteers with Awake Palmer Lake continue efforts to raise money through donations and event fees for the betterment of Palmer Lake and the parks and amenities which surround it, including the Rockin’ the Rails Park. Events include progressive dinners through the Palmer Lake Restaurant Group, dinner dances/concerts, the annual Palmer Lake .5K – the “Race for the Rest of Us”, and annual Try-Athalon, and other fun events.
We hope this helps you to better understand the mission and purpose of this organization. We thank you for your continued support, and look forward to serving this community for a long time to come.
Feel free to share this article with your friends, or others that might benefit from the information.
Sincerely, Your Awake Palmer Lake Committee