Saturday, May 12, 2007

Help Hackensack RiverKeeper Fight Nonpoint Source Pollution

Goose poop bad. Litter worse.
Hackensack Riverkeeper cleanup,
Laurel Hill County Park, Secaucus, 2006

As we've been patrolling along the Ho-Ho-Kus Brook, Saddle River and Village ponds, it's been impossible to overlook the garbage polluting our local water resources. No matter how conscientious we may be about properly disposing of our own trash, we face a never-ending battle against nonpoint source pollution:

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants, comes from many diffuse sources. NPS pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water.

According to the EPA, states report that NPS pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems. Goose poop is one form of NPS pollution, and we GeesePeace volunteers are doing something about that in our area. Hackensack Riverkeeper, Inc. is a local non-profit organization that, among other things, is dedicated to reducing and mitigating all forms of NPS pollution with a focus on the Hackensack River watershed, which essentially runs from the reservoirs of northeastern Bergen County down to Newark Bay.

Participate in a river cleanup

Last Spring, a few of my colleagues and I participated in a Hackensack Riverkeeper cleanup event at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus. The park is sandwiched between the two spurs of the NJ Turnpike, located just north of where the two spurs converge by the Pulaski Skyway. The Hackensack Riverkeeper himself, Capt. Bill Sheehan (far left in picture above), and Operations Director Lisa Ryan (far right in picture; scroll down at link to view her bio) took us out into the river on their pontoon boat, and dropped us off on a phragmites stand. Dressed in hip waders and armed with pickup sticks, we slogged through the muck and hauled out all sorts of stuff—from plastic water bottles to baseballs to hunks of styrofoam to an orange highway barrel.

While we were picking garbage in an area most think of as an industrial wasteland, we were treated to spectacular close-up views of a surprising variety of wetlands wildlife: cormorants sunbathing on piers to dry their waterlogged wings, herons wading along the shoreline, osprey circling overhead and diving into the river for fish, and several other species of waterfowl and shorebirds. It was a fun, rewarding and educational day that reminded us not only of the ravages of pollution, but also of the promise and potential of reclamation and conservation efforts spearheaded by dedicated individuals like Capt. Bill, Lisa and the entire Hackensack Riverkeeper team.

Next river cleanup is this Saturday

Hackensack Riverkeeper holds river cleanups up and down the Hackensack River watershed throughout the spring, summer and fall. Their next event is scheduled for Saturday, May 19, at Kenneth B. George Park, River Edge:

This cleanup is held in conjunction with the River Edge Environmental Commission and with the cooperation of the River Edge Fire Department. Several power boats will join our usual fleet of canoes in an effort to clear the river of debris. Supervised children are welcome; paddlers must be 14 or older and accompanied by an adult. Groups of 10 or more should contact Lisa at 201-968-0808. All equipment, breakfast and lunch will be provided. Please bring a bottle of water and dress appropriately for conditions.

Hackensack Riverkeeper offers lots of educational and recreational opportunities, too

Check out their Eco-Walks and Eco-Cruises, and their paddle center at Laurel Hill County Park where you can put in your own canoes or kayaks, or rent on site.

For more information about Hackensack Riverkeeper, visit And notice their link to this blog on their home page!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

60-Mile Radius Goal: Focus on Norwalk River Watershed

Radius map created using the Google Maps My Maps feature

Diana mentioned it at our training at The Stable, and has reinforced the message in several emails during the past few weeks: Ridgewood GeasePeace is part of a much larger, regional effort. Assuming the scale shown on Google Maps is accurate, this shaded circle shows the approximate area GeesePeace intends to cover in the tri-state region: communities within a 60-mile radius of midtown Manhattan. (How cool is Google's My Maps feature, by the way?)

The Norwalk River Watershed falls within this area. From The Ridgefield (CT) Press comes this story (hat tip to Diana) about an egg-oiling project launched this year by the Norwalk River Watershed Initiative, an organization working to restore the watershed by improving water quality, habitat and flood management through local decision making:

The Norwalk River Watershed Initiative is launching a watershed-wide education and egg oiling project to manage the resident Canada goose and is looking for residents to become involved.

The multi-year project focuses on educating the public and training volunteers and municipal staff to implement egg oiling, a Humane Society-endorsed technique where geese eggs are coated with corn oil to prevent hatching.

According to David Feld, Norwalk River Watershed Initiative volunteers attended a GeesePeace symposium held last year in Tarrytown, NY, and have participated in GeesePeace training in Greenwich, CT.

The Norwalk River Watershed encompasses several towns in Connecticut—Norwalk, New Canaan, Wilton, Ridgefield, Redding and a tiny sliver of Weston—and Lewisboro, NY.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Goslings at the Duck Pond

Went for a morning jog today, and spotted two pair of geese with goslings. One pair had five, the other six.

I also sighted three pair of geese along the bike trail: first pair right at the start of the trail by East Ridgewood Ave., second pair by mile marker 0.5 at end of Alanon Rd., and third pair near mile marker 0.8 near intersection of Grove and Berkshire. I've seen these pairs in these same general areas since the flooding. I suspect they may have lost their nests, and wonder whether they are about ready to nest again. Seems a little late in the season now, but I'll keep my eye on them.

I did spot what I believe to be a sentinel goose at mile marker 1.0, right at the Grove St. bridge. He was on the bike path, and as I approached he slipped into the river and started drifting over to the Paramus side. I stopped to see whether I could spot a nest, but didn't see anything. There is a small island surrounded by the river and the pond behind Mill Run. Pam and I had planned to out this afternoon, and will check out this site.

One more unexpected sighting: a lone deer in the woods near Berkshire.


Pam and I went to check out what I thought might be a nest location along the bike trail at Grove St., but the goose I saw alone this morning was walking around with the mate this evening. One must have been snoozing this morning.

Also, went back to check on two geese at 379 Queens Court, where we treated a nest before the flooding. This time, however, the homeowner denied us permission to access his yard and wants us to leave the geese alone. Not sure what changed his mind, but hopefully the pair will move to a neighboring property next year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Making (Air)waves!

See Diana interviewed on NY1.

Wow, word certainly is getting out. First Tom Franklin's article and multimedia presentation in the Bergen Record Monday, then the Star-Ledger article yesterday – and now TV coverage on NY1 featuring an interview with Diana.

See article with video link (requires RealPlayer; free download here if you don't have it):

“All of us love a cute little gosling, but what we forget is the gosling goes to the county parks, the pools, the playing fields, the soccer fields, our lawns and our walkways we are loaded with goose droppings and must stop it,” says GeesePeace volunteer Diana Wing. “It’s a health menace.”

Way to go Diana!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Newark Star Ledger GeesePeace Article

Recipe for goose control: Some eggs and a little oil

Volunteer group brings its slick new solution to Essex County towns
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

Canada geese have survived many efforts to reduce their numbers, from gassing, egg addling and chemical sprays to lasers and goose-chasing border collies.

But the plucky water fowl finally may have met their match in an unlikely household item: cooking oil.

A group of volunteers calling themselves Geesepeace believe their method of coating goose eggs with oil is the most humane and one of the most effective.

"There's nothing else that works," said Del Demaio, a volunteer whose group has oiled between 80 and 100 eggs this spring in at least six Essex County communities.

The nonprofit Geesepeace was founded in 1999 by water resource engineer David Feld, who first tried the method in his hometown of Falls Church, Va. It has since grown to a dozen states around the nation. Essex County is the first government in New Jersey to throw its support behind egg oiling.

"It was something endorsed by the Humane Society and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," said Tara Casella, who works in the county's environmental affairs office and was the liaison for Geesepeace.

"It was not very controversial," Casella said. " It was more humane. It doesn't sound good to people if you're going out there gassing and killing geese."

Indeed, Union County officials took a public relations hit in 2003 with a plan to exterminate 2,700 geese with carbon dioxide. The county halted the program after two days in which fewer than 1,000 birds were killed.

Other communities have tried less controversial methods, but always with the same result -- the geese just keep coming back.

Though some geese migrate to New Jersey, the populations municipalities want to control have made their permanent homes in the state's golf courses and parks.

Geese have become a problem because of the pollution their feces create in parks and in waterways and because of complaints they act aggressively toward humans.

"It's pervasive throughout the entire state," said Karen Hershey, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection. There is a monthlong hunting season for Canada geese in September, and over the last two years the state has increased the bag limit from eight geese a day to 15.

Ted Nichols, a wildlife biologist with the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, said geese were first introduced in New Jersey in the early 1900s and their population has expanded to an estimated 90,000.

Nichols said the geese are vulnerable when they are eggs or goslings, but a full-grown goose has few predators, aside from the bald eagle or coyote.

"Once (they) make it to adulthood, they're large, robust animals," Nichols said. "There are not many large predators capable of attacking geese."

The Geesepeace method works because the oil is absorbed into the shells and stops embryos from growing. When the geese realize the area is inhospitable for having offspring, they move on.

Essex County held volunteer training at its environmental center and sent letters to parks and golf courses offering the volunteer service.

With 11 bodies of water, West Orange has become a goose haven. But when the township began euthanizing geese two years ago, residents complained.

Now, the township is using the egg-oiling method and will only euthanize the geese as a last resort, said Amy Simon, a spokeswoman for the township.

Lou DeBell, who served as mayor of Roseland for 16 years, said he attended a Geesepeace training session after several other methods failed.

DeBell said Roseland tried coating the grass in parks with a goose-repellent substance, flying balloons that had the faces of predators on them and putting up fake owls and falcons, but none of those tactics worked. He said the Geesepeace training was educational and the method effective.

Feld said communities are becoming interested in the Geesepeace method as other means prove less effective or too distasteful.

"People are desperate, but they want to be kind to animals," Feld said. "They don't want to be cruel."

Elizabeth Moore covers West Essex. She may be reached at (973) 392-1852 or
© 2007 The Star Ledger
© 2007 All Rights Reserved.

Picture This


For those of you who may have missed it, our efforts are beginning to pay off with real publicity. Thomas Frankin, a photojournalist with the Bergen Record, joined Jim and Pam on the Somerville school roof last Wednesday, as well as others around town over the past few weeks. His article appeared in yesterday's Picture This column. Click the Multimedia link at the top of the article to view a narrated slide show.

After reading Tom's article, a reporter for NY1 contacted David Feld and expressed interest in doing a report on the efforts of volunteers in towns on her beat, which covers 13 eastern Bergen County towns. If possible I will post a link to her report. Check back later today or tomorrow.