Only 5 short days after the goats arrived at Bear Creek Park, they were quickly whisked away back to their home in Wyoming, about 3 weeks ahead of schedule. Why? All because a couple residents of Colorado Springs refused to leash their dogs around them and vandals stole metal signs regarding the leash laws as well as cut fences allowing the goats to escape. And now, because of that, a few choice people have derailed an entire chain of events that help make the very park they disobey rules in, a better place.
Three things are needed here I feel… Education, Respect, and Enforcement.
See, the chain of events works like this: in the spring, the Bear Creek Garden Association starts gardening. A portion of the food grown makes it’s way to Care & Share. After the summer is over, the gardeners clean out their plots and leave for the winter. Around the garden during the summer, noxious and invasive weeds grow. Instead of spraying the weeds with chemicals, the goats help mow them down. Why goats? Well, in an effort to curb toxic weed spraying, the goats are literally “weed eaters”. They help mow down all of the summer’s leftovers from that year. It’s such a popular method that it’s even been done at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and…Amazon is even renting, that’s right…renting goat grazers. This is one of the many things goats were born to do. They are also more sustainable than a gas-powered mower, less messy than a leaf blower, and they can get into places where a weed whacker can’t, and, in only a matter of days! The goats that come to Bear Creek Park once a year help with not only getting rid of weeds and providing natural fertilizer but fire mitigation as well. The area that surrounds the garden always has tall weeds in the summer and once they become dry and crisp can become a fire hazard. The goats take care of all that. But, after issues arose last year with unleashed dogs biting goats, herd owner Lani Malmberg gave our city a second chance and came back in 2015. Now, after 17 years but with more unleashed dog issues and vandalism, she might not ever come back. If you’ve lived on the west side of Colorado Springs for a couple of years, odds are that you have heard of, or have even seen the goats. Lots of people love it when they arrive and are sad to see them go. Farming and farm animals are almost a lost art, it’s an honor to still have some of these traditions in The Springs. Since the goats graze in an El Paso County Park, you’d think they’d be inclined to spread the info far and wide about proper park etiquette when visiting near the goats. Searching their website and Facebook, I didn’t see one thing posted about them or the leash law that is in effect in the Bear Creek East section. The only place that was doing any education regarding their visit was the Bear Creek Garden Association. And, with good reason! This nonprofit raises almost $10,000 a year to have the goats create a “pesticide free buffer” around their organic members-only garden.
The trailer backs up to load up the goats.
If the education is broadened a lot with the help of El Paso County Parks, maybe the public will start to understand and respect this tradition more. Letting dogs run off leash in an area where they should be leashed is bad practice anyways, but allowing them to continue to run off leash and disturb the animals while they work? Even worse. The goats help provide a much needed service that is pesticide free, in essence, they are helping YOU and your dog to have a cleaner, healthier environment. Can’t you at least show some respect by leashing your dog while passing them? Yelling at the goat owner, and cutting the fences that protect them from cars on 21st St? Shameful! And don’t even get me started on the signs that have been stolen including the elementary kids’ signs that pleaded for folks to keep their dogs leashed. LISTEN UP FOLKS: the time to start caring is NOW. The time to start being respectful is NOW. The world does not revolve around you and your needs. We have to work together as a community of caring and understanding individuals or more things might soon be lost, like the privilege to even have your dog in the park.
The goats are loaded into the trailer.
After the herd owner was verbally abused by uncaring dog owners, she talked to a few folks to see what could be done. Of course, it was a dead end street for her because the paperwork she would have to do for all of the folks that didn’t care about the leash rule would take up the majority of her time here in the Springs. In order for more enforcement, or, tickets to be given, an ordinance would have to be put into place that does not allow dogs in the park if the goats are there. With some changes, hopefully next year the County will be able to enforce the leash law and start issuing tickets which are around $50 per dog for the first offense.
As a person who grew up on a farm with goats and also cares about our environment, this really makes me sad. Folks, please respect the efforts of this event. Take the time to leash your dog in that area, avoid that part of the park, OR, go to an entirely different place…like a designated dog park. Hopefully, they will come back next year.
You can see more on this story tonight on Fox21.