Something stinks in Monument Valley Park.
One of the small manmade lakes at this popular downtown recreational spot has been leaking for years. But this year, the city didn't have enough money to supplement the water. Located south of Cache la Poudre Street, the lake slowly began draining into the water table last spring and has been empty all summer.
Where fish, ducks, geese and a few turtles used to live is now home to weeds, caked mud and refuse. Natural rains can turn it into a mud hole, and park users caught downwind at the wrong time breathe in a stench rising from its bottom.
"It's an eyesore," says Minnie Rowe, who with about 100 other members of the Palace of Peace Seventh Day Adventist Church, gathered Sunday for an annual picnic at the pavilion that overlooks the defunct lake.
Like many public spaces, the pavilion area has been a casualty of the city's budget crisis. But unlike most of those spaces, the pavilion is booked at $125 a pop for events such as company picnics, family reunions, even wedding receptions.
"It's sad," says Rowe, who has lived in Colorado Springs nearly 40 years. "The little ones liked to sit on the bank and watch the ducks and geese and skivvy rocks across the water."
When those images might be restored is anybody's guess.
"I really don't have the money to put water in it, and before we fill it, we need to work out a solution for the amount of water escaping through the bottom," says Kurt Schroeder, the city's parks, trail and open space manager.
A rubberized liner, like the one used to fix Prospect Lake in 2005, is expensive, Schroeder says. A cheaper option would be installing a layer of clay material before adding water. Schroeder says he's getting estimates on the costs of both sealant methods.
If the summer of 2010 goes out with abundant rainfall, Schroeder says he may have money left over from his irrigation budget to spend on the lake. It's hard to say whether it's a priority, though, considering what's been forfeited this year in the name of budget reductions.
Says City Councilwoman Jan Martin: "So many things need attention that it's hard to determine what should be a priority and where money should be spent."
What's easy to determine is that the barren lake, when combined with other cutbacks, like a zero flower budget and minimal park upkeep, is crippling one of the Springs' signature pieces of parkland. City founder Gen. William Jackson Palmer donated the land for the park in 1907, and in 2007, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The department has received a few complaints about the missing water, Schroeder says, but not many. And a volunteer with the reservation line for three park pavilions says its condition "hasn't impacted this year's bookings for the pavilion."
Sandra Morgan, a member of Palace of Peace Seventh Day Adventist Church, says though "it was a shocker" to see the waterless lake, that didn't put a damper on her picnic.
"We're still enjoying everything else here at the park," she says. "What we really miss is the swimming pool."