Jeff Hulsmann remembers a time — not too many years ago — when the lake of Palmer Lake was filled to the brim with water, stocked with fish and a summer playground for thousands of local Tri-Lakes area residents.
If he has his way, it will be that way again much sooner than later.
“I’m not making any predictions, but we a year we could be on our way to having the lake be like the old days,” he said.
Hulsmann is the chair of the Palmer Lake Restoration Committee. He is also is the lead spokesman for the Awake Palmer Lake project.
“There’s going to be like three phases of this,” Hulsmann said. “One will be the information gathering phase, the plan and then we implement.
“Because the lake is dry we have the unique opportunity to find out what’s underneath it. We went out in February and did a whole bunch of holes in the middle of the lake with what is called a push drill rig. A small tank driven rig. And just this past weekend (July 13) we went around the lake and drilled soil sample wells to find out what’s under there, how far the bed rock is and where the water is.”
Odell Drilling from Morrison did the drilling for free as far as the actual drill portion. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs professors and students are doing all the soil analysis for free. JDS-Hydro Consultants of Colorado Springs is being paid to come up with a plan.
“We would have to purchase water and the water would come from Monument Creek,” Hulsmann said. “We would like to think that in the water when the farmers aren’t using it we could purchase it for a reduced rate.
“We have a pipe line. It comes from the cut in the mountain near the two reservoirs. The railroad kept the lake filled up and they topped it off. It was a natural body of water at one time, so the railroads utilized Palmer Lake to fill steam engines. They continued to use their water rights until 1978 when there was no more use for the water for the railroad town.”
For more than 100 years, water was piped in from a reservoir to refill the lake when needed, according to the organization’s website.
Hulsmann explains that by 2001 things began to change dramatically in terms of how and where the lake got its water. Next came the first of a couple of droughts, followed by hotter than normal summers and all of the sudden there was Palmer Puddle.
“These ponds that you see out there right now comes from natural springs,” Hulsmann said. “Palmer Lake does not have a natural inlet. They are not artesian springs. They come from runoff that run underground. They hit the bedrock and they find a place to surface.”
If the lake was filled enough with water, Hulsmann is sure that the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife would stock it with about 30,000 fish each year. That would lead to people using the lake again as a recreational facility. He also foresees fishing derbies again.
“It’s not a huge lake, but it’s about 110 acres,” Hulsmann said. “It’s maybe 15 deep, and on the south side much shallower than that. You could use it to run row boats and kayaks. Kids come down and play and have a good time.
“The lake also features the first handicap dock ever built in Colorado, which is a unique feature.”
Jeannine Engel, owner of Rock House Ice Cream in Palmer Lake, is playing a key role in the Awake Palmer Lake project.
“We raised $1,000 in fish in six weeks,” said Engel, who has patrons sponsor paper fish that are placed on the wall of her parlor for $1 each. “In 2005 we sold the fish to raise money for awareness of the lake, so we decided to do it again. We were able to pay a significant amount of money for the drilling.
“We plan to continue to sell fish for the lake. Ice cream and the lake go together.”
Engel envisions a day when the residents of Palmer Lake and nearby communities talk about the lake in a positive light.
“It’s a big part of the community and we need the lake,” she said. “We’re not willing to stop working on it until it happens.”
Among the upcoming events that will help raise funds for the lake project is Taste of Palmer Lake. It takes place Aug. 23 from 1 to 4 p.m. at participating restaurants.
Advance tickets are $18. It is limited to 400 tickets sold.
Tickets go on sale Aug. 4 at participating restaurants.
Funds raised go toward enhancing the town including, but not limited to, finding and funding solutions to the lack of water in the lake, playgrounds and picnic areas near the lake.
A long-term project is to provide a safe passage across the railroad tracks, connecting the Santa Fe Trail head to the downtown area.
Participating restaurants include: Bella Panini, The Depot, MoZaic, O’Malley’s Pub, Rock House Ice Cream, Simply Delicious Catering, Speedtrap, The Wine Seller, The Villa, “La Rosa” and The Parked Pierogi.