Fire island? Blue Lake plan causes stir |

Fire island? Blue Lake plan causes stir

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A pair of geese make their way across the remaining ice, heading for the island in El Jebel’s Blue Lake Thursday afternoon. Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

EL JEBEL – The fate of wildlife on a man-made island in a man-made lake has stirred up at least some residents of an El Jebel neighborhood. Things may come to a head on Saturday, or not.

That’s when work was to commence to cut some of the thick tangle of brush on the island, pile it up and burn it in the middle of Blue Lake, a modest body of water in the subdivision of the same name.

The project was to begin as soon as the ice was gone (much of it is), but before geese begin nesting on the island. Opposition, however, may have stalled action.

“I actually don’t think anything is going to happen Saturday – there’s so much controversy,” said Scott Wirkler, a member of the Blue Lake Owners Association board of directors.

The project was hatched out of fear that tamarisk, an invasive plant species, was growing on the island, and the association board initially decided to have all of the vegetation burned, according to member Stan Snyder, who found himself in the minority.

Ultimately, Wirkler said, the association was advised there are no tamarisk on the island. The plan to clear some brush and burn it moved forward nonetheless, said Snyder. Conifer trees are to be spared; herbicide will be applied to the stumps of trees that are cut down.

“There is no tamarisk on the island. Everybody knows that,” said Snyder, “but they still want to go forward with it. The goal, I think, is to get rid of the geese.”

“A lot of people believe there’s a hidden agenda – to control the goose population,” agreed Blue Lake resident Sheryl Carr, who’s fighting the plan.

The lake is popular with waterfowl and Canada geese, in particular, nest on the island. A preponderance of goose feces on the paved path around the lake, at the beach, in the grass and virtually everywhere else in the subdivision’s community open space around the lake is viewed as a problem by some residents.

Carr doesn’t oppose pursuing options to control the geese population, but at one point, she said she threatened to tether herself to the island if there’s an attempt to torch the vegetation. Her home is one of several that ring one side of the lake, and she wants the island left alone – at least until the association has a better idea of what it’s doing.

The vegetation is home to a variety of nesting birds, claims Carr, who has set up a webcam so viewers can keep tabs on the island. Blue Lake gets a mention at the website.

Opponents say clearing vegetation will do nothing to thwart the geese, though some proponents have suggested the effort will make the goose eggs more visible to predators, according to Carr.

Carr has called on the association board to reconsider altering the island habitat. At the very least, if brush is removed, she is advocating that it be burned elsewhere.

She randomly surveyed other Blue Lake residents. Out of 26 responses, 19 said they’d prefer no vegetation be removed from the island, she noted. Several favored clearing some brush to clean up the island; one favored removing half of the vegetation if it would reduce the goose population.

“The geese aren’t going away unless we pave the lake with asphalt,” said Snyder. “My argument is, if it’s not going to have any long-term effect, let’s not mess with Mother Nature.”

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