April 2010
By Choo Rosenbloom

Choo feeds the geese of Silver Lake

    Earl and I had the opportunity to spend a night in Rochester recently when we decided to visit Minneapolis. It's been almost four years since I last visited and I needed to revisit what was once my favorite place.
     I had flown here from Winnipeg in December 2006
just to be among the tens of thousands of geese who winter here. Silver Lake was as close to heaven for me as it could get, back then, when the city government welcomed the geese and promoted their feeding as a tourist attraction and corn bins were placed at the entrance to the park. It felt good to see people of all walks of life participate in the feeding of the geese because many of the geese were injured, unable to fly, and  would not survive the winters without the handouts.
     Unfortunately, little did I know that dark clouds were threatening the peace and sanctuary for the geese and goose lovers and in the spring of 2007, the city began to  take steps to drastically reduce the population of geese by removing the corn bins, modifying the habitat  and posting signs to discourage the feeding of the geese. There was even talk of a molt roundup where flightless geese would be caught and sent to the slaughterhouse! This was shocking because of the history of the geese of Silver Lake and their connection to Dr. Charles Mayo.
     Alarmed at the negative impact this would have upon the injured geese who were unable to fly out to feed, we began an online petition and a letter writing campaign. Unfortunately, we could do nothing to stop the city from carrying out its designs. The corn bins were removed. The city created a buffer zone all around the lake and erected fences to allow native grasses to grow for three years. And signs were posted at Silver Lake to discourage feeding.
    So we returned to Rochester with memories more bitter than sweet. We hoped to see some of the geese who had been there back in 2006 but we knew, too, that the changes would have had an adverse effect on them as they were crippled, to begin with.
     Juan was not there. We think he died sometime during the last four years. The goose with angel wing, who was always the most visible and one of the first to greet visitors, was not there. There used to be a number of other geese with wing injuries. They weren't there, either. We assume that they died during the last few years, likely because few people come to feed the geese now. When we were there, we were the only ones to feed the geese while in the past, there was a constant stream of people feeding and enjoying the geese.

Please CLICK HERE for videoclip of buffer zone.

     The three photos above show the "buffer zone" planted to prevent geese from coming to land. The native grasses were supposed to flower but we learned from locals that they don't flower at all and look like dense and matted clumps of weeds year round.

Choo feeding the geese. Behind her, the city posts signs discouraging the feeding of geese.

Signs discouraging the feeding of geese

Poor little goose with a broken wing at Silver Lake. He looks young, perhaps less than one year old. He is weak, unable to walk far or even make his way to us for food so we go up to him and offer him food. He is unlikely to survive the year, especially the next winter.


     At our hotel, we notice that the gift shop no longer carries Gary Blum's goose poop artwork. He had become famous for his art and we had purchased two of them. Not seeing them on display was another sad reminder of Silver Lake.
     So we leave Rochester with a heavy heart, missing the lake that we used to love so much. The changes made to Silver Lake fills us with sadness. We do not plan to re