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April Stools volunteers pitch in for cleanup at Bear Creek Dog Park

April 8, 2017 Updated: April 8, 2017 at 10:12 pm
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Dogs cooling off at Bear Creek dog park. - Photo by Carol Lawrence,The Gazette

Donning plastic gloves and toting buckets and bags, volunteers at Bear Creek Dog Park on Saturday were ready to step up so no one steps in it.

At the annual "April Stools" cleanup, more than 60 people helped to collect the waste left by the park's furry visitors. The latest cleanup effort was originally scheduled for April 1, but was moved because of a snowstorm.

Participants typically scoop 200 to 300 pounds of poop at the event, according to El Paso County, which runs the park.

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Dogs in on the action at the Bear Creek Dog Park. - Photo by Carol Lawrence 

"It's kind of a gross thing, but we've got to make the general public more aware," said Marc Schendzielos, a member of the Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park. "More and more people are using this park. Obviously, with that comes more and more cleanup."

The park sees about 80-100 people and 150-200 dogs each day, according to the county's website. A 2009 estimate found that the space attracted roughly 90,000 visitors and volunteers that year.

Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park also hosts another cleanup day - nicknamed "Ghouls and Stools" - every year around Halloween, and several other smaller events throughout the year.

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Another popular dog park in Colorado recently closed, in part because people weren't picking up after their animals. Jefferson County Open Space officials decided to close the Elk Meadow Park Dog Off-leash Area in Evergreen on April 1, citing "multiple safety and environmental challenges," The Denver Post reported.

While scooping poop isn't a glamorous job, it's important for the health of Bear Creek, which runs through the dog park and merges with Fountain Creek downstream, said Jerry Cordova, a city stormwater specialist.

"The poop contains a number of bacteria. Ammonia is one of the items that is leached out, which is very detrimental to the water quality," Cordova said. "It's bad for the plants and other species."

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More than a dozen other volunteers from Keep Colorado Springs Beautiful fished out trash and shoveled sediment from the park's ponds and creek. This helps to deepen the waterways, removing some of the silt that's washed into them when it rains, said Dee Cunningham, the organization's executive director.

A small pavilion that was constructed in the fall was also dedicated to Ron Buchanan, who spearheaded many park improvements and died last year. Friends of Bear Creek Dog Park raised about $12,000 for the pavilion.

"We're here to honor him," said El Paso County Commissioner Stan VanderWerf, who appeared at the event. "This is a celebration of dog lovers and their dogs. This park stays healthy through a lot of volunteer work."

Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108