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Bear Creek Garden Association spreads its roots in the community


Lani Malmberg and her goats are annual visitors. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lani Malmberg and her goats are annual visitors.

Finding space in the city to grow a large garden can be incredibly difficult. Yard size, soil quality, access to water — each of these factors can be a hindrance to urban and suburban gardeners. Fortunately, solutions can be found, and often in unexpected places.

In the eastern portion of Bear Creek Regional Park, two acres of land are dedicated to the oldest community garden in Colorado Springs. Charmaine Nymann Community Garden, operated by Bear Creek Garden Association, is made up of 104 neatly placed beds composed of amended soil, seven of which are reserved solely for the purpose of nourishing the community through donated organic produce. The entire garden is run by members who pay a seasonal fee for the use of their space and who also volunteer each season as part of their membership.

"Gardeners who rent their own plots volunteer to also work the donation plots," says association treasurer John Poyzer. "We then donate the produce to several places in the community. This year alone, we also donated over 3,500 pounds of fresh vegetables and vegetable matter to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo."

Poyzer notes that not only do the donation plots create thousands of pounds of food each year, the members themselves frequently share their extra produce with the community as well.

In addition to operating the garden, the association is responsible for maintaining the 20 acres that surround it as part of a land use agreement with El Paso County. This includes weeding and general cleanup. In the past, ridding the area of weeds was done with harmful herbicides. Out of concern for both the environment and the integrity of the food they produced, the garden association elected to try a new approach — weed-eating goats.

"We promote ourselves as an organic garden," Poyzer says, "so we felt that it was best not to have herbicide spray anywhere around the area. Bringing goats in helps tremendously."

For the past 15 years, the association has paid for the loan of a large herd of goats as an eco-friendly solution to eliminating noxious weeds and potentially hazardous brush. They also help with vital fire mitigation and soil reclamation, and their arrival is a highly anticipated event for many in the community, drawing families, students and other visitors to the park each season.

This November, the beloved Colorado Springs tradition hit a bit of a snag. The annual work of the goats was cut short due to escalating issues with vandalism and unleashed dogs in the leash-only park. Since then, many in the community have expressed concern that the goats would not return next year.

But there is hope — and every intention — of bringing the goats back to the park in 2016. Poyzer is confident that a resolution can be achieved; the garden association, as well as individuals in the city and county, have been working to remedy the unleashed-dogs issue so the goats can do their job safely.

With that goal in mind, the association has been an enthusiastic participant in Give! in order to raise funds for the goat project.

The hope is that donations made in the final days of the campaign will allow them to continue providing their much-needed service to the community.

The 2015 Give! Campaign features 88 area nonprofits. To learn more, volunteer or donate, visit indygive.com before midnight on Thursday, Dec. 31.

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