Don’t feed the geese

New Riverwalk signs plead: Don’t feed the geese

EP-150619895.jpg&updated=201506101624&MaxW=800&maxH=800&updated=201506101624&noborderriver-geeseAR-150619895.jpg&updated=201506101624&MaxW=800&maxH=800&updated=201506101624&noborderContractors building a new segment of Riverwalk along the north edge of the future Water Street District in downtown Naperville will borrow a pavement stamp from the city to etch a message warning path users not to feed the ducks and geese.

Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

Every time someone along Naperville’s Riverwalk learns it’s a bad idea to feed the ducks and geese, someone else shows up who thinks it’s just good fun.

That’s the issue Riverwalk officials say they’re dealing with as they install two new signs to remind visitors of the harmful effects of tossing human food to the birds.

The signs were posted Wednesday along the north side of the DuPage River between Eagle and Webster streets, said Chuck Papanos, park operations manager in charge of the Riverwalk for the Naperville Park District.

The new postings are in addition to “DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE” etchings stenciled into the path itself and business cards park district police began handing out in summer 2013 that educate people about the downsides of feeding ducks and geese.

In short: too much human food for the waterfowl means too much goose poop in the river. And that’s not a pleasant scenario for smell, sight or the health of the river’s ecosystem.

The lesson has sunk in for many Naperville natives who use the path, said Stephanie Penick, a Riverwalk commission member who proposed the idea for the business card-sized handouts two years ago.

“It’s definitely made an impact,” Penick said. “It’s helped a lot, but it hasn’t helped for everyone.”

Newcomers and out-of-towners often are the ones guilty of feeding the ducks and geese these days, she said. That’s why Riverwalk officials wanted to try another element of education to really hammer home the plea for people to keep the stale bread and popcorn out of the river.

“We’re just trying to add to that message,” Papanos said.

One more addition to the anti-wildlife-feeding displays will come next year when the $93 million Water Street District opens along the south side of the river between Eagle and Webster streets.

Contractors working on a new segment of Riverwalk to be installed with the district’s new hotel, dining, parking and shopping have asked to borrow the stamp that stencils the “DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE” warning into the path, said Bill Novack, Naperville’s director of transportation, engineering and development.

Working with a landscape architecture firm, Riverwalk officials laid out several spots where the new stretch of Riverwalk will be marked with the request not to feed ducks and geese. The markings will be between 30 and 75 feet apart, and they’ll be posted close to the water or at the foot of staircases leading to the lower-level walkway from the upper path. That way the signs will be placed where people are likely to see them.

“We did not want to overload it,” Novack said. “We still want it to look tasteful.”

It’s not that everyone is ignoring the park district ordinance that forbids feeding of wildlife along the Riverwalk, officials say. Just that the occasional scarp of people-food is still making its way into the mouths of the animals who swim the waterway. Riverwalk leaders aren’t done trying to stop it.

“We can’t really say if it’s gotten better or worse,” Papanos said, “but it’s still occurring.”