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Geese run afoul of city officials

August 01, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

There are those who would like to make Hagerstown City Park less hospitable for waterfowl.

Hagerstown City Council members in September will consider whether they want to institute a feeding ban or authorize the shaking of eggs in an effort to reduce a growing waterfowl population at City Park, a city official says.

There are more than 300 Canada geese in the park, and that's too many, said Public Works Manager Doug Stull. The problem isn't as bad as it was three years ago when there were more than 900 waterfowl in the park, but it is getting worse, he said.

"We're going to have to do something because they're destroying the soil area, ripping the plants out," Stull said.

One option would be to shake goose eggs to prevent them from hatching, Stull said.

When that idea, along with a feeding ban, was proposed almost three years ago, 6,500 residents petitioned the city's mayor and City Council not to go along with the plan.

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Stull realizes shaking the eggs is an unpopular option, and probably won't be approved by the council, but it's the most humane solution, he said.

Another possibility would be to relocate some of the geese.

When that was done in the past, however, the waterfowl returned to City Park on their own, Stull said.

The park provides good habitat with plenty of food and water.

Stull also wants consideration given to stopping the sale of cracked corn at the park's concession stand because a ready food supply keeps the waterfowl in the park.

"We're contributing to the problem," Stull said.

Visitors can feed the ducks and geese only in designated areas of the park, but a total ban may be needed, he said.

It's too late in the year to take action, so city officials probably will wait until winter, he said.

City officials might not be able to halt corn sales at the concession stand until the contract with Ray Montgomery expires next fall, Stull said.

Montgomery said the loss of revenue from a corn sale ban would force him to close the concession stand in light of the amount of rent he pays.

According to the public works department, Montgomery's rent for the City Park stand this year is $8,750 for the period from April through October.

Montgomery said he sells 600 to 700 pounds of corn a week.

"If they would cut the feed out, it would also cut the people out," said Montgomery. Feeding the waterfowl is why people come to the park, he said.

Some visitors at the park on Wednesday afternoon agreed.

"That's mostly why people come here - to feed or look at waterfowl. They look pretty well fed," said Sue Proudfoot, 36, of Hagerstown.

Wendy Stotler, 25, of Hagerstown, said it's tradition to feed the ducks and geese at the park. Stotler's 22-month-old niece, Jessica Redman, was on her third bag of corn for the birds.

"If people find out they're not going to sell the feed, they'll bring their own," Stotler said.

Some of the park's visitors said they didn't notice an overcrowding problem.

Meda Day, 35, of Frederick, Md., took her daughters to the park on Wednesday to feed the ducks because that activity is banned at Baker Park in Frederick.

Stull said Frederick officials had a similar overcrowding problem and recently relocated several waterfowl.

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