Lake Montezuma not the same without lake

Lake Montezuma is just not the same without a lake.

And according to Lake Montezuma Property Owner's Association President Bob McClarin, the "disappearing lake" has become the talk of the town.

The lake is about one-third the size it used to be, according to water marks visible this month. McClarin said after meeting recently with Bill Chambers, Beaver Creek Golf Club manager, he learned some of the problems the course owners face — ditch clean out and pipe breakage and the time, manpower and expenses involved in bringing water to the course.

"If it takes time and money, I think people are prepared to help," McClarin said.

"Our namesake 'Lake Montezuma' is quickly disappearing," said McClarin. "Wildlife habitat is being compromised and instead of a lake we are ending up with a puddle."

"It's a little like Salt Lake City without Salt Lake. It's a real identify for our community," added wife Pam McClarin.

The pond — known by locals as "Lake Montezuma" — and golf club is owned by the Beaver Creek Golf Club, Inc. which includes several share owners, Gloria Hays, married to Larry Hays and Chambers among them, according to Chambers.

Chambers said the Hays obtained grandfathered water rights that go back about 130 years to carry water through ditches from Beaver Creek into ponds on the course. The current drought cycle prompted the club owner to fill only the ponds that take less water and are more aesthetically pleasing to those playing the course.

Chambers defends the diversion of water from the lake.

"Water is precious. It has no value to rewater for the golf course. It's a dead-end spot."

He adds also that waterfowl already have found other ponds on the course. He said the loss of riparian structure is not a legitimate complaint. He also said that golf courses across the country have taken a beating since Sept. 11 and that they like many others are now just getting back on their feet. It was sold at one time on a lease option to Sunterra Golf, but it reverted back to the current owners because of losses.

Realtor Debra Riley of Beaver Creek Realty says residents are "distraught" over the loss of water in Lake Montezuma. She believes, like many others, that the lake doesn't have to be lowered as much as it has been.

"People are concerned," said Dale Branson, 63, who lives on Lake Shore Drive, "because real estate people are estimating that property values in the area will drop 15-30 percent."

He said he moved to the area for its beautiful sunsets and the beauty of the lake and is disappointed in the loss of lake water.

"The property owners would like to at least schedule a meeting as to what might be done (with the golf club owner). What could we look down the road to creating something there, like a lake for the longevity," McClarin added.

The next meeting of the Lake Montezuma Property Owner's Association is July 7 at 4 p.m. at the Adult Center in Lake Montezuma, McClarin said.

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