- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — Feeding birds in city parks and at beaches could soon run afoul of the law.
City councilors on Tuesday advanced an ordinance that would ban feeding geese, ducks, gulls and other waterfowl, with a possible $50 fine for the first offense.
A first reading in front of the full council has not been scheduled. A public hearing will be held before a second reading and vote on an ordinance.
This is not the first time a proposed ban has taken wing in the city, where signs in Mill Creek Park already ask visitors not to feed the waterfowl that gather there.
“This ordinance would be basically giving my education (efforts) a backbone,” city Park Ranger April Bolstridge said during the April 9 council workshop.
Bolstridge said she would like to make the feeding ban a law because Mill Creek Park is increasingly a year-round home to migratory waterfowl who stay because they are fed by the public.
The abundance of waterfowl also creates hazards from what they leave behind, she said.
“All these birds are producing feces, which is going right into our waters,” Bolstridge said.
Her research found more than 100 geese in the park last October, and she said it’s time to force them to find their own food.
“Basically, what this would do, is to bring ducks and geese back to their normal level,” Bolstridge said.
It is not just a matter of what comes out of the waterfowl, it is also about what is going into them, she added.
A Parks Recreation and Waterfront Department memo said the bread, corn and other food waterfowl are fed are not the plants and insects that are part of a healthy diet for the birds.
The malnourishment can lead to deformed wings, cause avian botulism, and reduce energy. That, in turn, can prevent migration, while crowded living conditions can spread avian cholera, avian influenza and duck viral enteritis.
Unlike a fertilizer ban councilors considered earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, the ban on feeding waterfowl has already been written. It generated complete council support, and hatched a flock of puns.
“I want to thank our ‘lone ranger’ for giving us license to pun, we really do need to deal with this fowl feeding problem,” Councilor Misha Pride said. “It is a big bill, and deservedly so.”
Councilor Maxine Beecher was ready to put her foot down in support of a ban.
“Having been to the park for concerts, if you step in the wrong direction, you are sliding,” Beecher said about accumulated bird feces.
Yet as former Councilor Rosemarie DeAngelis noted, an attempt to ban feeding 15 years ago did not fly with the public. DeAngelis also asked how well it could be enforced, given the law enforcement workload.
City Manager Scott Morelli said signs citing the specific ordinance would be posted, and there would be more public education about the hazards of feeding waterfowl. Offenders might also be warned at first, although proposed penalties would increase to $100 for a second offense and $250 for additional offenses.
Bolstridge has also created animated public service announcements featuring a goose named “Judge Doody,” who discusses the hazards of feeding the waterfowl.
Councilors were not unanimous about whether those fines are too large or enough, and uncertain about whether volunteers should help enforce the ordinance. Mayor Claude Morgan expressed doubts about that, because it would require giving volunteers constabulary duties and because encounters with offenders could get contentious.
Public comment on the ordinance lasted about 10 minutes and was supportive. Brigham Street resident Russ Lunt said it was time to act.
“(The birds) are ungrateful,” Lunt said. “People feed them and look what they do.”
What is now just a posted request to avoid feeding waterfowl at Mill Creek Park in South Portland could become a citywide law.