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County taking steps to make Bear Creek Park safer for goats

By El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark

       El Paso County appreciates the community interest in goat grazing in Bear Creek Regional Park. We are disappointed the goat herder chose to leave early this year because of concerns over off-leash dogs and vandalism. We take great pride in park stewardship and individual responsibility and are working to find ways to prevent these types of unfortunate events in the future.
       As background, the non-profit Bear Creek Garden Association (BCGA) has had an agreement with El Paso County since 1986 to manage the Char Nymann Community Garden located at Bear Creek Regional
One goat stands above the rest during a visit to Bear Creek Regional Park by Lani Malmberg's weed-eating goats from Wyoming in 2009.
Westside Pioneer file photo
Park. The BCGA annually leases plots to individual gardeners who are required to garden organically, without the use of herbicides or pesticides.
       The County and BCGA also have a Noxious Weed Management Agreement. Under this agreement, BCGA is responsible for controlling noxious weeds in an approximate 22-acre buffer area surrounding the garden. El Paso County commends the BCGA's creativity in using goat grazing to accomplish weed management without the use of herbicides. This has required significant fundraising and coordination.
       While the goat herder was concerned about off-leash dogs causing problems for her goats, the vast majority of park users abide by the leash rules. Issues such as this have not been common. In fact, many park users look forward to seeing the goats each year.
       Bear Creek Regional Park is one of the most heavily used parks in the Pikes Peak Region, and there are a handful of users who chose not to abide by the rules or who may not have understood that dogs are required to remain on leash, except in the designated off-leash dog park area. El Paso County Parks stepped up security patrols, the Humane Society increased its monitoring of the park for off-leash dogs, and additional signage was added to remind park users about the leash rules. Unfortunately, even with these additional efforts this year, the goat herder was still concerned about the safety of her goats which led to her decision to leave early.
       The county and members of the BCGA recently met to discuss ways to address the concerns with the goal of bringing the goats back in 2016. The Parks Advisory Board will consider updates to the County Parks Rules and Regulations, which include a proposal for County Security to be able to issue fines to owners of off-leash dogs.
       El Paso County reminds dog owners using our county parks to keep their dogs on leash, unless they are in the designated off-leash dog parks at either Bear Creek Regional Park or Fox Run Regional Park. This will promote safety for you, your dog, other dogs, all park users, wildlife and, hopefully, weed-controlling goats.
       To learn more about the goat program at the Char Nymann Community Garden and how you can donate, go to bearcreekgardens.org/support-the-garden.

       Since 2005, Commissioner Clark has represented the county's District 3, which includes the Westside.

Posted 12/23/15; Opinion: Guest Columns)

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