Photo courtesy of Rod Stewart
Numerous resident geese are seen at Gull Park in Foster City.
Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
Foster City resident Rod Stewart illustrates the problem with goose feces at Gull Park.
Foster City is known for and substantially invests in its numerous parks, but the neighborhood geese and their messy droppings are taking a toll on the city’s budget and serve as a point of frustration for both city officials and those who frequent the parks.
“First of all, the goose problem in the city is a problem that faces cities throughout the country and typically it’s around cities that are surrounded by water ... the goose issue has to do with the mess they leave behind and we live in a community that’s surrounded by parks,” said Kevin Miller, director of Foster City’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The city has about $25,000 budgeted annually for its goose management program and have tried everything from setting up fences to hiring a goose patrol team with a dog.
“We’re well aware of the issues that we have, but again, I say it’s more of a goose management problem and it’s ongoing. We do invest a significant amount of time and funding to try and [manage] it. Because if we didn’t, our infrastructure would look horrible,” Miller said.
The parks’ visitors have a hard time walking through the grass or on the concrete paths without stepping in goose feces, said Foster City resident Rod Stewart. It’s an unsanitary problem that causes discomfort to the neighbors and the children who frequent the park, Stewart said.
Monica Celle-Kuechenmeister takes her 2-year-old daughter to Foster City parks and has to keep a sharp eye on her to ensure she doesn’t get covered in geese feces.
“On the one hand it’s natural, but on the other hand it’s disgusting,” Celle-Kuechenmeister said.
In the more than 20 years since Foster City began to find itself hosting the unwelcome visitors, the city has spent a good deal of money to little avail, Stewart said.
“We have spent an inordinate amount of money in this little town out of a budget that is in the red doing something that’s already been proven by other places not to be effective. As a taxpayer, I’m a little embarrassed that my species is apparently not using the intelligence that the geese display,” Stewart said.
One of the most concerning attempts was the city’s spending of $30,000 per year to hire someone to drive around with a dog to scare off the geese, Stewart said. The geese would be scared and retreat to the lake but, as the dog left, the geese were right behind and continued to feed off the grass and leave behind unsanitary feces, Stewart said.
The loosy goosy patrol was eventually disbanded three years back due to budget cuts and the city has since moved forward with trying new techniques, Miller said. The city has installed several fences to separate the sandy shore and the tempting green grass at several parks, Miller said.
But the fences aren’t very effective because there are wide gaps used for service vehicle access and aren’t completely enclosed, Stewart said.
“There are several 5-foot wide gaps in the fence, they just walk up and go through. The fences are transparent and they can see the grass. Needless to say, a species that migrates thousands of miles every year has no problem getting through a 5-foot fence,” Stewart said.
Foster City is not alone in dealing with the problem, but continuing to fund projects that have been proven to be ineffective is a waste, Stewart said.
One proven method is addling eggs, a process that involves gathering the eggs and terminating them, Stewart said. Another surefire way would be to gather the birds and feed them to the homeless, Stewart said.
However, the geese are a federally protected endangered species and killing them is not an option, Miller said.
“Are we going to eliminate every single goose in Foster City? No way. They’re residential, they’re not migrating, that’s a fact,” Miller said.
A problem both Miller and Stewart agree on is people encouraging the geese to remain by feeding them. It’s technically not illegal and the hope is residents remain educated about their effects on the geese and refrain from feeding them, Miller said.
“We’ve done some extensive outreach to the community about the harmful effects of feeding the water foul and that’s huge in trying to allow us to manage that problem,” Miller said.
However, Stewart said he sees people feed the neighborhood foul frequently and the city needs to enforce some regulations.
The city is investing in new methods such as spraying the field with a distasteful longer-lasting repellent and it’s having some success with newly installed synthetic turf and the fences do help deter the geese, Miller said.
“It has an impact on our budget, and we’re using it appropriately to make sure the parks stay in the great shape that they are,” Miller said. “I think we are, and without it we would really just have a serious issue in regard to keeping with the quality we want, aesthetically and safety.”
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