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Goats leave Bear Creek Park early; off-leash dog incidents main reason

      
The weed-eating goats from Wyoming had slim pickings Nov. 7 while temporarily penned inside the Bear Creek Garden - the Garden Association members having previously turned over the soil for the winter. The animals were put there because of concerns about off-leash dogs in the park, according to association spokesperson Karen Stith. Three days later, the herd was trucked out of the park ahead of schedule, mainly because of the dog issues.
Westside Pioneer photo
Incidents involving off-leash dogs and vandalism brought a premature end Nov. 10 to the weed-eating goats' stay in Bear Creek Regional Park.
       About 600 of them, owned by Lani Malmberg of Wyoming, had arrived less than a week earlier and were slated to stay past the middle of the month.
       In what has been an annual arrangement, Malmberg's goats had been brought in by the Bear Creek Garden Association, in keeping with their desire to be organic in their methods of growing as well as weeding. The roughly 200-member volunteer nonprofit contracts with Malmberg to work the 20 acres around their 2-acre organic garden southeast of Rio Grande and 21st streets that it leases from El Paso County Parks. The county uses herbicides to keep down toxic weeds elsewhere in the park.
       Karen Stith, secretary on the association's board of directors, said the early goat departure was “disappointing at the very least.” The association fundraises throughout the year to pay the costs of an annual goat visit.
       However, she understood Malmberg's decision. “Some of those off-leash dogs can get pretty vicious,” she said.
       The park is in Colorado Springs, which has an ordinance requiring dogs to be on leash in public.
       The dog problems first started cropping up last year, but this year was worse, Stith said. In addition, several metal signs - put up before the goat arrival to remind people of the leash law - were stolen. And, in the middle of the night Nov. 7, the pen where the goats were being kept got opened somehow.
       No arrests have been made.
       Tim Wolken, the county Community Services director, said the county had increased its vigilance after the problems in 2015, and was disappointed it wasn't enough. "A vast majority of park users abide by the leash rule but we still need some park users to keep their dogs on leash," he said."We will discuss the issues with the Bear Creek Garden Association and will hopefully have the goats return in 2016."
       Malmberg's goats will still be in the area for about three more weeks. She has trucked them over to an area west of Mesa Road, where there's a 20-acre public preserve and private open lands on which a number of property owners like the weeds cut back for fire mitigation. A contract with them had been in place before the Bear Creek incident; the goats had just been not been expected to get there so early, according to Rich Serby, one of the property owners.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 11/10/15; Outdoors: City/County Parks)

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