EDITOR’S DESK: This study really was for the birds
So, yes, to borrow from the headline in our Page 1 article this issue, “where is a study when we need one?”
This whole humpty-frump about Fountain Creek being contaminated through the Westside has been close to a joke since the get-go, and this latest news from Manitou Springs about a reduced pigeon population seals the deal. Consider your tax dollars at work: The study that came and went from 2007 to 2009 spent $440,000 in taxpayer money. But do you know that if it weren't for Rick Ruggles, Manitou stormwater manager, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) might have had to leave town with nothing but a giant question mark for all that expensive sampling and analysis? It was in spring 2009 that Rick sent an e-mail to USGS study chief Don Stoeckel, pointing out the numerous pigeons in the Arcade and the Spa and that all their droppings were draining right into Fountain Creek (either from rainfall or power-washing), and that might be the cause of the summertime pollution spikes that Stoeckel had at that point found but could not explain. Anyway, to fast-forward slightly, you might recall that Stoeckel's final presentation in September 2009 suggested Manitou's pigeons as possible culprits, but what was really needed was, yes, another government study.
Ruggles' theory has evolved since then. As noted in the article, he thinks that when the Spa was condemned for several years, that's when pigeons began flocking there, perhaps finding a comfort level in a building without people in it, not to mention the convenient rafters in the nearby Arcade. There is precedence for birds coming back to favorite spots: In the Garden of the Gods, as Melissa Walker has written in her Nature Narratives column, the white-throated swifts migrate in and out around the same times every year. But in Manitou, the pigeons are now finding an inhabited Spa as well as clear hostility (rafters that are screened off or laden with sticky glue). So maybe they're starting to flock to other places. Of course, that's all just a theory. If only we knew for sure. Hey, I know, let's all dig into our wallets to fund another study.