Goose Problem Continues at Mayor’s Park

Also, parking enforcement to tighten in commuter pickup

By Michael Turton

Where there are Canada Geese there is also … well … Canada Geese droppings. It’s been an issue at Mayor’s Park in Cold Spring for decades and appears not likely to be resolved anytime soon, if ever.

While the battle against bird poop can evoke chuckles, Bruce Campbell, chair of the Recreation Commission, sees no humor in it.

“It’s not conducive to Haldane baseball or Pop Warner football when the field is covered with excrement,” he said. He’s also concerned about the village’s ability to rent the park out for events such as Octoberfest.

Geese are grazers with an affinity for well-manicured, fertilized lawns, making them a nuisance at parks and golf courses. They would dislike foot-tall grass at Mayor’s Park, but so would Haldane’s outfielders.

Canada Geese at Mayor’s Park (Photo by M. Turton)

Managing the problem has been discussed numerous times by the village board, most recently at its July 10 meeting. Trustee Fran Murphy said she had researched the use of strobe lights, but a resident of Fair Street objected, expressing concern that it could adversely affect his son, who suffers from epilepsy. Visual stimuli, including strobe lights that flash in regular patterns, can trigger seizures.

A group from the Butterfield Library’s teen summer program has offered to make cut-out coyotes to place around the field, but the U.S. Humane Society says “predator effigies” will not work. Nor will balloons, scarecrows, floating alligator heads, flags, dead-goose decoys or ultrasonic sound.

Campbell said that as early as 2002, the village experimented with various defenses such as cut-outs, reflectors and even firing pistol blanks, but nothing worked for long. “It was like a war zone,” he said. “It’s always going to be a problem because of the location” near the Hudson.

The Recreation Commission has recommended that the village purchase a 48-inch-wide device, at a cost of $6,400, to sweep and thatch the grass at Mayor’s Park, but the board has put the proposal on hold.

“We’re looking at all options” said Mayor Dave Merandy. “There is no silver bullet, no single solution.”

Dog walking is not allowed at Mayor’s Park, but issuing limited permits for it to discourage the geese might be a strategy, he said.

Commuter pickup

Drivers picking up commuters at the Metro-North station may soon find tickets on their windshields if they park and wait near the pedestrian tunnel at the foot of upper Main Street.

“I’m finding it increasingly problematic to turn around there,” said Trustee Lynn Miller at the July 10 meeting, adding it is often difficult to turn left onto Main from Depot Square because of the number of cars parked illegally.

“People have been doing it for years,” said Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke of the Cold Spring Police Department. “It’s a dangerous situation,” especially when there are a lot of pedestrians.

Burke said that even with No Parking, No Stopping and No Standing signs, he has resorted to placing orange cones, which soon get moved. He often advises parked drivers to circle the block, “but we can’t always be down there” when a train arrives, he said. Burke said he will instruct officers to begin strict enforcement in the no-parking zone.

Merandy supported that move but said drivers should be warned that enforcement is about to increase. “I don’t think it’s right that we just start ticketing; we haven’t done that for years,” he said.

Burke said parking could also be curtailed by creating a turning circle or a small island at the foot of upper Main Street.

In other business …

Burke reported that CSPD answered 77 calls for service in July. Officers also issued 21 traffic and 82 parking tickets and made an arrest on a warrant.

Code Enforcement Officer Greg Wunner expressed concern over continued deterioration of the building at 47 Fair St., a former car dealership, including the collapse of the roof. Merandy directed Wunner to look into condemning it.

4 thoughts on “Goose Problem Continues at Mayor’s Park

  1. Let my beagle in — he not only chases geese but also delights in their poop! Two birds with one stone (pun intended),

  2. The Highlands Current and Mike Turton do significant disservice to our local youth and community by the slant of this article regarding the Canada goose problem at Mayor’s Park. It summarily dismisses the Butterfield Teens’ project as valueless without going to the trouble of interviewing the library, its directors or any of the teens involved. Instead, Mr. Turton spent a minute or two checking the Humane Society’s website and upon a narrow reading of the information available, determined that predator effigies won’t work.

    Here is a direct quote from the Humane Society (please note the section in bold):

    “Geese lose their fear of simple scare devices, like those listed below, quickly. You may get some short-term relief, and if that’s all you need, these may help. But for the most part, these scare devices have little lasting effect. Geese are simply smarter than that.

    • Flags, eyespot balloons, and Mylar® tape.
    • Floating alligator heads and dead goose decoys.
    • Fake owls and snakes, scarecrows, or other effigies, especially ones that don’t move.
    • Coyote and other canine effigies or cutouts, with one possible exception. Where geese have learned to fear real coyotes or where trained goose-herding dogs are regularly working, fake canines may keep geese on their toes a little longer. These work best when they are moved frequently and are on swivels so that they appear more real when moved by the wind.”

    When Maureen McGrath, head of the JBL Teens program librarian and former editor, contacted me about community-based project ideas for this year’s camp session, I recalled our Village Board discussions about the difficulty of managing the Canada goose population and the resulting waste at Mayor’s Park. I suggested the teens might enjoy researching Canada geese, their effects on our local ecology, and goose management efforts other communities have found successful. If painted coyote effigies prove to deter the geese, our local youth will be making a valuable contribution to the community in which they live and engage their creativity the process. Ms. McGrath took the idea, researched extensively and determined it would be a useful endeavor for this year’s session.

    Waste from Canada geese is a significant problem. Each goose produces up to 1.5 pounds of feces every day. The birds pose a threat to public health by fouling our parkland and ball fields with waste that carries parasites such as cryptosporidium, giardia and toxoplasmosis in addition to campylobacter, E-coli, listeria, and chlamydiosis bacteria. Children who play baseball and football at Mayor’s Park are constantly exposed to these pathogens with every ground ball and tackle. In preparation for last fall’s Senior Picnic, Mayor Merandy, Trustee Voloto and I spent hours cleaning the grass and pavilion of goose poop. Seniors and young people are those most vulnerable to infections from the goose-deposited parasites and bacteria due to their developing and/or weakened immune systems.

    Maybe coyote effigies will be a low-tech solution to the goose problem, maybe they won’t, but the potential benefits are worth exploring. It costs very little to give it a try, especially compared to the thousands of dollars involved in purchasing specialized poop removal machines and strobe lights. Building and installing several coyote cutouts on swiveling bases is a fun project for the JBL Teens, exposes them to the practicalities of the scientific process through hypothesis and experimentation, and communicates to our youth that we adults value their contributions to our community.

    The Highlands Current and Mr. Turton’s keenness to poo-poo our youth’s initiative and effort before they’ve even begun is mystifying. A local newspaper serves us better by encouraging community service in our youth rather than discouraging it. We all owe them better.

    Miller is a trustee on the Cold Spring Village Board.

    • Why are Canada geese an issue specifically for Mayor’s Park and nowhere else in the village? Is it perhaps because the park is built on wetlands?

      This seems to raise a larger issue. Why is this park built upon wetland — land that should be protected from development and reserved for the ecology of the region? Is it perhaps that the village has done a very poor job (over decades, of course, and not just by the current membership of our Board of Trustees) of developing a system of village parkland?

      This village (as is typical of small rural villages which were not later incorporated or annexed into cities or larger metropolitan conglomerations) was designed and developed under the ideologies of limited government (meaning, generally, a healthy and understandable fear of government compensated in part by a cultural bias towards community volunteerism), a “free market” economy, and a cultural and educational control system based on religion and a “freedom of religion” (well not precisely that as some religions and systems of belief were excluded, but that is another story altogether).

      This is the village’s ideological legacy, and these ideologies remain surprisingly in ascendance to this day — following the principle that the more things change the more they remain the same. Thus the best land in the village was taken, developed, used, and remains in use by the churches, and by the industrialists and the wealthiest. Only to a limited degree, and only from late in the 19th century, were village resources and land given to and used “in common”, e.g., by a public schools system. This is one rare exception to the general condition. The one other notable example which comes to mind is the local fire company.

      As a consequence of the long-term secular decline of many of the parishes, some of the church land has in fact been taken over, almost unconsciously, as village parkland, for general public use. The best example of this is the lawn at St. Mary’s. Similarly, other underutilized, underdeveloped and under-protected private property now is commonly trespassed upon — mostly by visitors who cannot or will not respect the principle.

      Out of all bounds of current and developing community needs, I think the village remains allergic to effective local government, preferring its current, limited form. Nonetheless, for many, many reasons — the others I do not have room here to enumerate — the village needs an effective, village-government controlled and managed parks system, together with, and more generally, more and better public spaces. Or, if you will, we simply maintain a 19th-century attitude. But you can’t have both.

  3. Would a public pool and sundeck — with families splashing around enjoying beautiful views of the river and mountains — help keep the geese away?