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Citizen petitions to rid park of geese

Local resident Brian Borbot has started a campaign to remove geese from Riverside Park.
Geese at Riverside Park

Geese at Riverside Park /Brian Burton

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/Brian Burton

Brian Borbot solicited the city for help with the geese problem he's been noticing at Riverside Park on Monroe Avenue NE. Borbot has also  created a Facebook page to rally individuals to the cause. On the Rid Riverside Park of Geese page, Borbot cites health hazards and posts pictures of the excessive amount of geese dropping. He encourages individuals in Grand Rapids to take action. 

"For close to three years I've been trying to get this problem addressed," Borbot says in the Facebook page's "About" section. "I've contacted everyone from the people at the Parks and Recreation department to the DNR [Department of Natural Resources] - even Mayor Heartwell. They all admit there is a problem but none of them will do anything about it. It's time to take the bull by the horns, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, just do it and all those other clichés. That's why I started this page. Let's see if I can ruffle some feathers so to speak and get something done about this."

"People say 'oh well' and have apathy because they think there is nothing they can do about it. If I draw enough attention," Borbot says, "they will realize there is a problem."

Borbot's Facebook cover page lists data about the geese population concerning the park's health. He explains how geese droppings pose a health risk for swimmers, pedestrians and the environment. Risks include things like the well-known "summers itch,"  along with "excessive plant growth" and  increased algae blooms.

"You could have border collies come and chase them out, or spray grape juice on areas where they feed. You could put small fences around the pond, or let hunters in there for a day," says Borbot. "Just stopping people to feed them is the biggest problem."

Borbot notes that many people bring bags of bread to feed the geese. Feeding not only encourages them to remain at Riverside, but also is harmful to the animals. Creston Neighborhood Association's News Bureau published an article in The Rapidian this past January, writing about how the city sponsored "do not feed" signs at the park. Although the signs instruct visitors not to feed the geese, Borbot believes more can be done.

Borbot, to get more done, called in during the April 1st airing of City Connection to contact Mayor Heartwell. 

"I don't have a solution to the problem," says Heartwell, "we've looked at what other cities have done, to setting goose chasing dogs loose, to setting fences. But, when you have an expanse the size of Riverside Park, you don't have to jump over the fence. It's pretty easy to fly in."

The City Commission proposed opening goose hunting in the park, but Heartwell didn't support the idea. Heartwell did express that he wanted to help Borbot remove the geese.

"It is a serious issue," says Heartwell, "and I want to treat it seriously."

 Heartwell explained that he would address Borbot in a future airing of his video blogs. In addition to contacting Heartwell, Borbot also  contacted the park manager.

"If more signs were posted or people patrolled the area or wrote tickets....there's no effort being made," says Borbot. "The park manager told me last fall that they were going to gather them [the geese] up and ship them out, but that didn't happen."

Geese overpopulation is not a problem that is limited to Riverside Park, other parks in Grand Rapids reported similiar problems. Borbot has also posted examples of nationwide geese problems including a park in Denver and a county in Canada.

"They have a lot of offspring," Borbot says, "It's only going to get worse because they stay year round. If [local residents] contact the mayor or park managers maybe action will be taken."

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