Early in January, we learned about the city's plans. Even though landscape modification (buffer zone) is considered to be a humane solution to reduce geese population in an area, we were concerned about the large numbers of crippled/ flightless geese and how the city's plans would affect them. We began a massive letter writing campaign to the Mayor, City Council, Post Bulletin and Rochester news media voicing our concerns and asking that a separate area be set aside for the feeding of the crippled/ flightless geese. We also contacted the media and broke the story to them. Up until then, the city was keeping its plans a secret from its own residents. We also created a petition, objecting to the creation of the buffer zone.
GOOSE FEEDERS FLYING THE COOP
January 5, 2007
ROCHESTER, MN -- A popular fixture for years in the Rochester area could be flying the coop.
A new plan by the park board hopes to clean up the Silver Lake Area.
Some say in the long run, this famous tourist attraction will suffer, while others are happy to see any efforts to clean up the mess left by a huge goose population in the area.
A few months from now this entire Silver Lake area will be undergoing a major makeover and one part of that will be the removal of these goose feeders.
These guys are certainly against the decision but the sheer number of geese leaving their mark on these surroundings forced the decision and that has some people far outside Rochester crying foul.
They're so much a part of Rochester, they're even represented in the city seal. But for some the geese at Silver Lake have worn out their welcome.
Gary Mills who works next to the park says, "It has proved to be a nuisance, they get on our lawn and rip apart a lot of the grass, they leave a lot of defecation and stuff on the lawn too."
No doubt part of the reason geese flock here is the easy meal, but they may have to work a little harder for a snack when the park board removes all the geese feeders in April.
Visitor Penni Britt says, "Yeah the birds are kind of messy but I think that if you get rid of that then you are going to get rid of something that people look forward to coming to do."
Britt is from Kansas and she visits the Mayo Clinic every three months. She says the birds make Rochester unique and many of the patients look forward to a reunion with each visit.
Shane Sell says, "We don't have places at home where they'll do this where they'll just come right up to you like this so it's something we always kind of look forward to doing."
The decision to ditch the feeders goes along with a 550 thousand dollar mitigation project to clean up silver lake. The main goal is improving water quality and to do that crews will be installing a 30 foot landscape buffer along the waters edge.
Park Assistant Superintendent Dennis Stotz says, "A bi-product of that is it will tend to discourage geese from going from the water up into the park area and that was part of the reason for the park boards decision to do away with the goose feeders is that the two projects seemed to conflict with each other."
Stotz says he doesn't think anyone believes goose feeding will completely stop at silver lake.
He says the project in itself probably won't reduce the total number of geese in the area but what they hope it will do is decrease the birds who make their home on the grassy area of the park and hopefully make the entire area cleaner.
By Emily Buss
An online petition has garnered more than 600 signatures from people opposed to efforts to trim Rochester's Canada goose population.
Passionate pleas are not only from Minnesota but from across the United States, Canada and Australia -- and even a member of the Rochester City Council.
The petition says 50 to 60 injured and crippled geese are year-round residents of Silver Lake and will suffer the most from actions designed to manage the flock, because they can't fly away.
"In particular, this project will cause great suffering for the significant number of crippled and wounded geese that make their home year-round at the lake," the petition says.
Margaret "Choo Choo" Love, a resident of Manitoba, Canada, started the petition and runs a pro-goose Web site. She says she has visited Rochester and doesn't think Silver Lake has an overpopulation of geese. She also says buffers are a cruel way to get rid of them.
"The city of Rochester has promoted Canada geese for many years but has never bothered setting up a waterfowl rescue site for these injured and/or crippled geese," Love said. "Also, Rochester is known throughout the world for its medical facilities. However, for its injured geese, and geese are, by the way, on the city seal, Rochester does nothing."
Due to concerns about goose overpopulation, the city council earlier this year decided to remove corn feeders from Silver Lake Park.
Other, more aggressive steps, such as addling eggs in their nests or extending the local hunting season, have not yet been agreed upon. Both actions would require approval from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
In addition, the council also approved a plan to install vegetative buffers around Silver Lake in an attempt to clean up the water. The buffer would act as a filter for runoff into the lake.
The buffer was proposed as part of the population-control plan, although city officials are skeptical that it will discourage the geese. However, the petition says the buffer will cause the crippled geese to starve because they will be unable to fly over it to feed. The installation of the buffer is set to begin late next week.
Barb Huberty of Rochester Public Works says the buffers are a cost-effective way to reduce the amount of runoff that seeps into the lake every year from goose and pet fecal matter. Once the five-year project is complete, the buffers could prevent up to 79 percent of the harmful runoff from reaching the water, Huberty said.
"The buffers will mainly act as a water-quality treatment device," Huberty stated. "The population of the geese surrounding this area is not likely to change."
Council member Pat Carr recently signed the petition to protect the crippled geese -- yet the petition was against the buffers, which Carr actually supports.
"I don't think it will have a negative effect on the geese," Carr said. "All animals, for that matter, have to learn to adapt to their environment."
Rochester's year-round flock of giant Canada geese is estimated at 1,000 to 2,000; in winter, it can reach 40,000.