A once-in-a-generation pond in the Garden of the Gods is creating sensational reflections of the red rocks at sunset.
It's also creating a stink in Pleasant Valley.
No, I'm not saying neighbors are upset about hordes of camera-toting wannabe Ansel Adamses parking bumper-to-bumper along Chambers Way and trekking up an old dam to capture a shot of the water before it's gone.
It actually is creating a stink in Pleasant Valley.
Seems the 10 inches or so of rain that fell in three days in September resurrected Valley Reservoir No. 1, as it was known after Robert Chambers, using horse-drawn equipment, built the dam in 1874 to irrigate his fruit orchards and other crops at what is now Rock Ledge Ranch.
(Matt Mayberry, director of the Pioneers Museum, filled me in on its history. In fact, it was the first of three irrigation reservoirs dug in the park and valley and filled with water diverted from nearby Camp Creek.)
For a couple weeks, the pool was just a beautiful, and rare, water attraction in the park. And it attracted many, who made the walk up the hill due west behind Rock Ledge Ranch.
But now, it has worn out its welcome.
Though the original five-acre pool has shrunk by about half, according to Kurt Schroeder, city parks official, it remains a substantial pool.
And whatever is in the water has taken on an ugly quality.
It reeks. We're talking a barnyard smell. Imagine Greeley on a summer day. And, depending on the winds, it hangs over the area, turning it into Not-So-Pleasant Valley.
"It's horrible," said Valerie McIntosh. "It blows right into us. I think it smells like an outhouse."
The stink has been the talk of the neighborhood, which was built amid remnants of Chambers' old alfalfa fields in the late 1950s and '60s and boasts 800-plus modest homes, many with one-car garages typical of the era. It even sparked a thread on the Pleasant Valley Connection, an online chat room for the neighborhood.
Under the heading "Stinky sewage smell," neighbors speculated about its source. One neighbor even jokingly suggested it was rotting cheese from a neighborhood Green Bay Packers fan.
But neighbors quickly figured out that the beautiful pool in the old reservoir has turned into a septic, stagnant mess that reeks of decay.
I wandered over Wednesday to check it out. I followed my nose and the smell intensified as I walked up the back of the old dam. When I popped up on top, it was obvious the water had turned putrid.
It still looked great at sunset, especially with ducks bobbing along and diving for their dinner.
But, whew, was it rank.
Eye-watering stinky. Reminded me of some bad diapers I handled after the kids started solid foods. Yikes.
Neighbor Bob Neilson said the smell intensified with recent heat.
"It's worse when it warms up," Bob said. "A week ago it was pretty strong."
Judy Gossage, a 36-year resident of the valley, hasn't noticed as much as some others.
"I noticed it when I got out of the car last night," Judy said. "It smelled like a sewer."
To learn more about the reservoir, I called a 42-year valley resident, Gary Rombeck. He spent 20 years with Colorado Springs Utilities studying its systems and could tell where it was raining in the region by watching the colors in Fountain Creek. (Red meant it was raining in Manitou Springs. Brown meant Norwood, for example.)
Anyway, Gary has intimate knowledge of the water canals that spread out from pioneer-built diversions on Fountain, Camp, Monument and other creeks to provide water for crops and homes in the Colorado Springs area.
He's even seen a photo of the reservoir full and a boat pulling skiers in it. But that was back when a century-old 24-inch pipeline fed the lake from a diversion on Camp Creek at the mouth of Glen Eyrie.
"That pipeline is not functional," Gary said. "The water in the reservoir today is natural runoff."
And that's where it will stay until it evaporates or soaks into the ground because Gary said there is no drainage in the area.
"Whatever drains into it says inside of it," Gary said. "So what you've got is animal feces washed into a closed basin. It's turned septic."
Kurt Schroeder said no sewer lines run through the area, ruling out a rupture or backup causing the smell.
"I guess it's just organics, grasses and things, decaying in the water," he said.
Gary said the city could treat it with chlorine or run a pump and aerator in the pond if it doesn't evaporate soon. But he suspects nature will take care of the smell.
Many neighbors are taking it in stride as they do the crowds who come and go on a daily basis to use trails or attend events in the park.
"We've always got different things going on in the valley," said Judy Gossage. "We get a little of everything and we love it. Pleasant Valley is awesome."
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