Council gets first glance at ordinance that would prohibit feeding of waterfowl, migratory species on city property
Port Washington aldermen took the first step in outlawing the feeding of birds on city property Tuesday.
They reviewed a proposed ordinance that would prohibit anyone from feeding waterfowl and migratory birds, and are expected to vote on the law when they meet Tuesday, Aug. 20.
Although feeding the ducks, geese and gulls that gather at the lakefront has been a pasttime for local residents and tourists for years, the birds have left their mark on the area, prompting the prohibition.
Not only do the birds leave a mess, it’s a mess that can cause a health hazard, officials said.
“I don’t think anybody dislikes the birds or waterfowl. It’s what they leave behind that’s problematic,” City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.
The birds are already fouling Coal Dock Park, which hasn’t even opened to the public yet, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.
“We’re hoping that once we have people out there, they’ll leave,” he said.
The mess the birds leave was the reason the Harbor Commission initially recommended the prohibition, officials said, noting they leave their mark on the docks and walkways.
Although the city has posted a sign near the marina asking people not to feed the birds, it hasn’t stopped them, officials said, noting people can often be seen feeding them in front of the sign.
While the problem would be bad enough if it was limited to one season of the year, that isn’t the case.
When people feed the birds, they tend to stick around instead of migrating, Eberhardt noted.
“The problem with at least some of them is that when you feed them, they no longer migrate,” he said. “By enacting this, you’re forcing them to live as nature intended.”
The proposed ordinance does not specify the fine to be levied against violators. Eberhardt said the Common Council will have to determine that before approving the law.
Typically, municipal fines vary from $5 to $500, he said. He checked on other communities, he said, and there is quite a range of fines.
Some communities go a step further, he said, requiring people who feed the birds to do community service.
“Guess what that is?” Eberhardt asked. “Cleaning up after the birds.”
Ald. Dave Larson, a member of the Harbor Committee, which recommended the ordinance, said offenders should face significant penalties.
“We should lean to the expensive side,” he said. “With what we’ve got at stake with the coal dock and the marina, we need to be stern about this.”
But Ald. Paul Neumyer, a retired police officer, said hefty fines will cause officers to think twice before writing tickets.
“It’s up to the copper if he’s going to write the ticket. If I have to write an extremely expensive ticket, I’m not writing it,” Neumyer said. “I understand the importance of this, but you need to be careful.”
He suggested the city get input from Police Chief Kevin Hingiss before setting the fines.
Ald. Bill Driscoll suggested the city install signs that not only tell people that feeding the birds is illegal, but also explain why.
“If they know feeding the ducks is going to kill them, they’ll stop feeding the ducks,” he said, noting diseases are spread through the bird droppings.
The proposed ordinance would only apply to people feeding birds on city property, not on private property, Eberhardt emphasized.
“This would not affect the ability of private property owners from feeding birds to their hearts’ content,” he said.