CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- Prairie dogs rescued from the future site of the Promenade at Castle Rock are settling into a new home in Sedalia. “If you look around it’s absolutely beautiful,” describes Deanna Meyer.
Meyer, a board member with Colorado Wildlands Defense, has been fighting for months to save a colony of prairie dogs living in Castle Rock. Hundreds had to be exterminated to make room for a new mall that is being built just west of I-25 in Castle Rock.
A group called Bold Vision Solutions rescued about a hundred prairie dogs from the constructions site with plans to relocate them to New Mexico. After those permits fell through, Meyer’s family offered to let the rescued prairie dogs live on their land near Sedalia.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife approved Meyer’s land for relocation last week. They brought the prairie dogs to the 60-acre meadow located within Pike National Forest Wednesday.
“They don’t have to worry about all the cars running them over and about people coming and shooting at them. It’s surrounded by the natural world,” says Meyer.
With help from a conservation group called Growing Ideas, a team of volunteers dug 30 new burrows for the prairie dogs on Meyer’s land. The 87 remaining animals were placed in the holes over the weekend. Cages are then kept over the man-made burrows for two to five days so the prairie dogs don’t run away.
“It gives them something safe to be in until they can figure out how they want it to be,” explains Sandy Nervig of Growing Ideas.
Tuesday Nervig removed the last cages, allowing the prairie dogs to roam free. Meyer says she is thrilled, but there is still more work to do.
“There are about 200-300 still out there on the site,” Meyer says, “We would like to be able to join their colony on this land with us.”
Aside from the prairie dogs there is also a debate over the mall itself. Castle Rock Town Council has already approved the permits for the project. Wildlands Defense has been collecting signatures for a referendum to reverse the decision. On Monday, Castle Rock received the petition. The town has 30 days to verify there are 1,945 valid signatures. If there are enough signatures, town council will then decide whether to rescind the development project or put it to a public vote.
The 166-acre Castle Rock property, bordered by I-25 and Highway 85 is zoned for commercial, retail and residential use. Developers for the project, Alberta Development Partners, LLC of Greenwood Village, received all proper permits for the retail project. Under state law, developers can choose how to deal with wildlife on their property. Promenade at Castle Rock is expected to bring in millions of dollars to the local economy and will create almost 4,000 jobs.
If the current development project is stopped, the land could still be developed under a new proposal, pending approval of Castle Rock Town Council.