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As the Village Turns

Down the drain


The city has found many surprises during their Prospect Lake-draining project. - BRUCE ELLIOTT
  • Bruce Elliott
  • The city has found many surprises during their Prospect Lake-draining project.

Last Saturday dawned clear and crisp and I rolled out of bed filled with great energy and purpose, in part because I'd planned a fly-fishing adventure for that morning but mostly because my wife had lifted her head from the pillow, looked at me and said, in a loving way, "Go make coffee or I'll kill you."

So I pulled on one slipper and sprinted to the kitchen and brewed the coffee, of course. The wife seemed pleased by both the coffee and the level of fear she has instilled in me. Nevertheless, at 8 a.m., with a few hours to myself, I began loading my fly-fishing gear into my 1972 Ford Pinto. This is the classic motor coach that experts agree did more for the auto industry (Japan's) than any other vehicle ever produced.

My Pinto now boasts the sure-footed traction you only get with one-wheel drive. (I'm pretty sure it's the left front, judging by the way it pulls violently into oncoming traffic if you don't keep a death-grip on the steering wheel.)

I wanted my fly-fishing destination to be a place of great beauty, a serene and majestic place where the wild trout would rise to the fly and the grass along the banks would dance in the wind. Unfortunately, those places are way up in the mountains and, well, the Pinto doesn't like hills. (Two weeks ago it blew a radiator hose when Faith Hill came on the radio.)

So I went to Prospect Lake.

It's a wonderful place surrounded by Memorial Park in the middle of our village, a lake where generations of townsfolk have come to fish or feed the ducks or swim in the water off the sandy beach. Our village founder, Gen. William Jackson Palmer, often swam in the lake, startling onlookers by diving off the back of his majestic steed, Shecky the Wonder Horse, while dressed in his full Civil War uniform. I think.

Scanning the shoreline

Anyway, I parked my Pinto and stepped out, acknowledging the envious reaction from a crowd of onlookers by rubbing my hand gently over the hood and saying: "I'm the original owner!" As so often happens in this situation, the people tried to mask their envy behind a veil of really loud laughter.

With fishing gear in hand, I approached the shoreline of our village's jewel of a lake. Knowing how spooky fish can be in the wild, I began to move with great caution, carefully sidestepping the hundreds of beer cans and corroded car parts -- and even more carefully sidestepping the old condom that was tangled up in a pile of fishing line and had actually been penetrated by a large, rusty fish hook. (Note to outdoorsmen: This should serve as a good reminder to always maintain a safe distance between you and your girlfriend when she's casting.)

I'd scanned the shoreline as I walked and had now picked out a prime spot where I would begin casting a No. 14 Royal Coachman fly to the majestic trout, using the same fly pattern favored by famed angler and writer Zane Gray.

Just as Gray might have done a century earlier, I carefully positioned myself in a prime spot -- right between a pile of old car tires and a rusted barrel that was half-buried in the black mud, thick, oozing mud that emitted an unforgettable odor. (If I had to rank this odor, I'd say it was slightly more offensive than the smell of human waste but far less offensive than the smell of an El Paso County Commissioners' meeting.)

Fishing nearby was a man named Garcia Dudley, who said he's spent all of his 46 years living on Prospect Street, just a few blocks from Prospect Lake, and has been fishing in the lake since he was a child. He has, he said, seen the place in better shape.

"Pitiful. Imagine a city letting a place like this turn to a shithole like this," Dudley said in a melancholy way.

Sprung a leak

I didn't catch any fish that day. Neither did Garcia Dudley. When I got home and finished my usual post-fishing chores -- putting away my fly rod, washing my hands with bleach, burning my shoes, etc. -- I started to wonder why the fishing hadn't been better. So Monday morning I decided to make a few phone calls.

Kurt Schroeder of the our village's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department acknowledged that the fishing in Prospect Lake had fallen off a bit in recent weeks. He attributed this to several factors. The most important one seemed to be that a big pump has sucked 25 million gallons of water -- and probably some fish -- from the lake since April 13. Seems our lake sprung a leak and needs to be drained, although our village leaders aren't sure how to fix it or how to pay for the project.

The Prospect Lake water was sent gushing through hoses, into the storm water drainage system then into Fountain Creek and down to Pueblo.

(Footnote: This is the key component of the historic recent water agreement between the two villages. We get all of Pueblo's Arkansas River water so our uncontrolled growth can continue, and in return, Pueblo gets 25 million gallons of our sludge, along with some very disoriented perch.)

Left behind, where Prospect Lake once stood, is a 3-foot-deep, fermenting cesspool of filth and fish gasping for oxygen.

Stupid me. I thought I was just using the wrong fly.

A few weeks ago, our village leaders said they spent all of our tax money and can't afford to plant flowers in the city flower beds. They asked us to get involved -- buy flowers and plant them -- in a project they dubbed Adopt A Flowerbed. And we did.

I'm not so sure we're going to have the same response to the Adopt A Carp project.

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