On July 20, 2016, an unusual image was circulated on Facebook. The grainy, black-and-white photo was allegedly taken at Standley Lake Regional Park. It appeared to depict the lake, with low-hanging tree branches obscuring the upper right-hand corner of the photo. In the center of the photo, on the lake, was a large, black, indistinct figure. The Facebook post accompanying the photo read:
“Residents report unusual sightings at Standley Lake Regional Park. Others dismiss reports, citing over-sized pelicans as a possible explanation. City of Westminster Parks, Recreation & Libraries has not commented on the wild claims. Leave a comment if you have seen anything strange at the lake.”
The post was created by a Facebook user dubbed “Westminster Enquirer,” claiming to be a new tabloid where residents could find “exclusive up-to-the-second community news, gossip & happenings.” Its mission statement: “Uncover the truth.”
The post was shared 95 times, and a flood of comments from puzzled residents filled the thread.
Over the following week, the Westminster Enquirer published more information, including news that strange, colorful eggs had been found around the lake, sketches of what the mysterious monster might look like, and confirmation of the creature’s existence from the director of Westminster’s Parks, Recreation and Libraries Department at a media briefing.
What was at the heart of the hubbub? One group’s approach to luring residents outdoors.
“We wanted people in Westminster to get out and activate the trails. To enjoy them and experience them,” said Patti Wright, the city’s open space supervisor.
Wright said about one-third of Westminster consists of open space and parks, with almost 150 miles of trails.
“We have found that even when people live in the region, they’re not aware of Standley Lake, necessarily, and everything that it can offer — watercraft rentals, nature programming, beautiful trails,” she said.
A few months before the “monster’s” appearance, Rich Neumann joined city staff as marketing supervisor for the parks, recreation and libraries department. Neumann said his team of creative marketers helped imagine the Standley Monster.
The monster hibernates in winter, he said, but during its active season (mid-spring to late fall), residents visiting the lake and nearby trails might find its eggs — palm-sized, delicate and speckled with bright colors.
Attached to each egg is a note encouraging the finder to stop by the Standley Lake nature center so authorities can verify the egg’s authenticity. Finders then receive an official certificate and a display stand for their egg, and can take their prize home.
“It’s meant to be humorous and light-hearted,” Neumann said. “We have fun with it. And people love it. It’s just another way to engage with our very loyal following.”
The Westminster Enquirer — a satirical page of the department’s creation to keep residents immersed and engaged with the project — announces the most recent sightings and the monster’s supposed whereabouts.
While Standley Lake is the monster’s home and the only place where eggs were found last summer, the creature “is feeling more comfortable,” Wright said, and is expanding its habitat to surrounding trails.
Neumann’s team posts signs to let residents know when they are entering one of the “egg zones,” which move from week to week. He also cautions that the eggs are “in plain sight” — there is no need to wander off the trails.
Wright said she believes she’s seen a noticeable uptick in visitors to the park and surrounding areas since the project’s launch last summer in conjunction with National Trails Day and the debut of the Rocky Mountain Greenway Trail.
“People are incredibly appreciative of the project because it’s encouraging them to get out with their families, get healthy exercise, enjoy the fresh air, enjoy the community, and you might find a treasure at the same time. So it’s a win-win. (Engagement) has been overwhelmingly positive,” Neumann said.
Egg hunters can find more than just the monster’s eggs, too. If you’re “lucky,” Neumann said, you might just find a “rainbow poo.”
“We were trying to ‘flush’ this idea out,” Neumann said with a nudge and giggle from Wright. “Because we wanted to create something that supported the idea of a mythology. How this creature came to be lent itself to the story, and that’s how the rainbow poo came to be. We thought about kids and how it would resonate with them.”
The monster “lays” three to five eggs a day and once a week leaves behind a rainbow poo, which is colorful, swirly and (don’t worry) made of glass.
Neumann was right — kids are drawn to the poo.
“Early on in the campaign, when we first launched it, a little girl came into the nature center holding an actual piece of scat that had some colorful berries in it, and she thought that she had found the rainbow poo,” he said with a laugh. “It wasn’t the rainbow poo, but we encouraged her to keep looking. Talk about a real, up-close experience with nature.”
The nature center has a special gift for visitors who find a rainbow poo.
“The rainbow poo is, well, I don’t want to say the icing on the cake, because that’s disgusting. But it is,” Neumann said. “It might seem irreverent and silly, but it’s been impactful. It really speaks to how we’re trying to be creative and give people experiences that they can’t find elsewhere.”
Neumann and his team have helped the parks and recreation department launch a string of special events, including a zombie-themed golf tournament, in which making par isn’t the goal. Golfers instead try to keep their balls out of reach of zombies on the course.
“That’s what we’re all about — getting people outside enjoying their natural resources in a fun and creative way.”
Residents seem to be embracing the innovative initiatives.
“I think (the Standley Monster) is a great idea, especially these days when we are all stuck behind some kind of screen or some kind of technology. We get sucked into that world of social media,” said Brian Bowen, a Westminster resident whose 6-year-old son Bryce Bowen recently found a rainbow poo.
The father and son were riding bicycles on the trails when they stumbled upon the surprise. They didn’t know what it was at first.
“There were some park rangers just down the path a little bit, and we went down and talked to them and showed them. They said to (Bryce), ‘We think we just saw the monster a few minutes ago,'” Bowen said. “He was super excited. … He even brought it into school he was so proud of it.”
Bowen said he’d love to see the city continue presenting projects like this one to get families into nature.
Leanne Silverman, co-owner of The Furnace, the glassworks shop that molds the eggs for Neumann’s team, agreed.
“If I can lure my children outside and say, ‘We’re going to go on this adventure, let’s see what we can find,’ it makes it a little more interesting than, ‘Mom is making us go for a hike,’” she said. “I like that it’s this fun story that people can get invested in. There’s always something awesome about a treasure hunt.”
According to the Westminster Enquirer, the Standley Monster will continue to lay eggs — and take rainbow poos — through the end of November.
Egg zone locations and more information about the Standley Monster can be found on the Westminster Enquirer’s Facebook page, along with other initiatives coming out of the city....Read more