County might help replenish Palmer Lake

By Jane Reuter
The Gazette
Published February 15, 2005

The Board of El Paso County Commissioners decision last year to help Colorado Springs repair Prospect Lake is making waves.

The commissioners agreed in October to donate $200,000 in park funds to the city’s effort to refill Prospect Lake. Now, County Commissioner Wayne Williams wants to use some of those funds to help another community—Palmer Lake.

Its namesake lake is nearly empty and residents are searching for ways—and money—to refill it. Helping Palmer Lake makes sense Williams said, because the county owns the lakeside park and Santa Fe Trailhead.

The function of our county parks is to provide recreation for all, Williams said. “That’s true whether it’s Prospect, Monument, Willow Springs (in Fountain Creek Regional Park) or Palmer Lake. We’ve been actively working to try to address all the different bodies of water.”

Williams proposes using lottery revenue from Great Outdoors Colorado—the source tapped for Prospect Park.

Commissioner Douglas Bruce doesn’t think it’s the county’s business to give money to refill Palmer or Prospect lakes.

“I have this old-fashioned idea that everybody should be responsible for his own budget and own funds,” he said. “Stop giving money to other governments. (Colorado Springs’) budget is 2 ½ times ours. The city shouldn’t have its cup out for anybody.”

“I don’t see any of this generosity going both ways. I haven’t been stopped on the street by any government official stuffing cash in my pocket, saying, “I understand the county needs money, so here’s money from the taxpayers.”

A volunteer committee has started a fundraising campaign to buy water for Palmer Lake. That’s the way it should happen, Bruce said.

“Palmer Lake belongs to Palmer Lake,” he said. “We’re responsible for the trail but not the water. It’s their responsibility to raise the funds if they want to fill it.”

Palmer Lake hasn’t asked for help. County Parks Director Tim Wolken said he called members of the Awake the Lake committee after he read a newspaper article about their efforts.

“We have our regional park there. It certainly seems to make sense for us to participate,” he said.

The county rents the pavilion at Palmer Lake. Reservations there have fallen with the lake level, dropping from 49 in 2000 to 16 in 2004.

Although the county doesn’t have a direct tie to it, Williams has also tried to help Monument refill its lake, which has been empty for more than three years.

Monument needs permission from Colorado Springs to do so because city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities has senior water rights in Monument Creek.

When the commissioners agreed to donate money for Prospect Lake, Williams asked the City Council to consider working with Monument on its lake woes.

A Colorado Springs Utilities’ contract with the town says it won’t give it lake water unless the huge utility has an excess supply said spokesman Steve Berry.

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