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Community members say keep geese in park

Birds cause mess, more work for staff, board director says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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A local park might be lacking its geese in the future, and some area residents aren’t happy about it. The Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District Board of Directors is considering the removal of about 35 domestic geese from Meadow Vista Park at its 6 p.m. Thursday meeting. Scott Holbrook, a director for the ARD board, said the California Department of Fish and Game told the district the geese were most likely illegally dumped at the park. “We were at a community event out there, and it was brought to the attention of the board there are problems with the geese,” Holbrook said. “It’s been an increasing problem, especially at Meadow Vista. For some reason at Regional Park it’s not as big a problem.” Holbrook said he believes the birds are impeding the community’s enjoyment of the park. “Our picnic tables are getting crapped all over,” Holbrook said. “The feces are all over the place. People who go to enjoy the park for what most would consider normal purposes … due to the increasing population of these illegal geese, it’s getting harder and harder. Another point is it does create a big burden on staff. There is a lot more cleaning up that needs to be done, and as it is we are already stretched.” Holbrook said the potential removal would not include the Canada geese that migrate to the park or the ducks that live in the man-made pond. Kahl Muscott, district administrator for ARD, said it is not apparent at this point how the geese would be removed from the park, but the district would want to do it in a humane way. Muscott said an adoption of the birds would be a possibility. “That is something that is certainly one of the options is to let folks know that we want to try to get these geese to a home as opposed to going to a shelter,” Muscott said. “How that adoption would take place is not quite clear yet.” Mike Winters, program manager for Placer County Animal Services, said the department has no plan to help with the removal of the geese at this point because it doesn’t have the staff or equipment to do so. Muscott said the board could discuss how to remove the geese and who would help staff at Thursday’s meeting. ARD Director Curt Smith also said he supports the removal of the geese, and said the birds won’t leave those who visit the park alone, especially if they are sitting at picnic tables because people have been feeding them. ARD Director Gordon Ainsleigh called ridding the park of the geese “ethnic cleansing” in a recent mass e-mail, and said he does not support it. “I am frankly amazed at how narrow and uncompassionate Holbrook and Smith’s view of recreation is,” Ainsleigh said. “I could support lowering the population and removing the more aggressive geese, but Holbrook and Smith want to get rid of all of them. The fact that people come to our parks frequently to feed and chum around with the geese means nothing. Apparently, Holbrook and Smith don’t consider this ‘recreation.’” Meadow Vista resident Heather Ireland said the campaign to get rid of the birds started after she spoke out against the district’s fishing derby, which was held at the park, at the last board meeting. Ireland said she thinks the movement is payback for her presentation against the event. ”It really did appear as though this action to remove the geese … for them to go gangbusters now after the geese, was because we apparently had some issues that resulted from the fishing derby that had put these animals in harm’s way,” Ireland said. Holbrook said discussions about removing the geese began long ago, but that Ireland did bring an existing problem to the forefront. “My goal is really simple: to maximize use for as many people as we can,” Holbrook said. “They create a maintenance burden, and they impede people’s enjoyment of the park.” Ireland said she has been feeding and spending time with the geese since she moved to Meadow Vista several years ago, and she is concerned for their welfare. “My biggest concern is what ARD plans to do with them and how they are going to carry out whatever plans they decide on,” she said. Applegate resident Annie Thomas said she and her 9-month-old son, Cole Barnes, frequent the park and enjoy the geese. “This is the one park we know we can come to and (bring) a cheap loaf of bread to feed the geese,” Thomas said. “They are just happy and friendly. I have never heard anybody grumbling about them.” Thomas said they enjoy watching the baby geese grow up. Thomas said if the animals could end up being euthanized, she doesn’t see why they need to be removed from the park. “I think if it resorted to taking them to a shelter to put them down, why not just have them here?” she asked. Thomas said she thought it was ironic the board was considering removing the geese when a sign on the edge of the park states an ARD ordinance prohibits the removal of domestic or wild animals from the park. Granite Bay resident Farrah Hussain, who was visiting the park with Thomas Tuesday, said she enjoys the geese and their poop doesn’t bother her. “I really enjoy the geese and ducks,” Hussain said. “I feel like they are not really bothering anyone. I grew up around Folsom Lake, having geese and ducks there. I think it’s good for kids to see the animals.” Curt Ransom, senior humane officer for the Humane Society of the Sierra Foothills, said the society would not help in the removal of the geese if the board decided to vote that way. “If they did ask us to help we certainly wouldn’t,” Ransom said. “We would want the geese to stay there. This whole issue comes down to why don’t they accommodate the geese rather than remove them? The removal of the geese to me sounds so 1911 rather than 2011. It’s a knee jerk draconian reaction as far as I’m concerned.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com