By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Aug. 23, 2018) Public vitriol, at least in some flocks, remains high based on comments made during the initial meeting of a citizen group formed following the June 29 elimination of about 300 resident Canada geese in Ocean Pines.
The group, “The Ocean Pines Geese and Ecology Brain Trust Initiative: Securing a Balance,” met publicly for the first time last Thursday night in the Ocean Pines library conference room.
Following brief remarks from General Manager John Bailey on Ocean Pines water quality, Mary Deborah Wilson addressed the more than two-dozen attendees, not counting media and association officials.
Wilson, a mental health and geriatric nurse practitioner, formed the group.
“It is fitting that we are meeting tonight. Gov. Hogan, in fact, has honored birds and declared 2018 ‘The Year of the Bird,’” she said.
Wilson said about $125 million had been spent nationally “for the eradication of thousands of geese, for years without a sustained impact.”
Several times she dismissed claims that geese contributed to pollution of area waterways.
“If a body of water is polluted, why do birds, including Canada geese, continue to reside there and give birth to anatomically normal and functional geese?” she asked. “And why is Canada geese feces a paramount concern here? What about chicken, possum, fox, heron, egret, seagull, duck, domestic geese, turkey buzzards, eagle, mouse, snake, fish, squirrel [and] rabbit poop?”
She said there are “signs and symptoms” of a divided community on the issue, adding, “our dysfunction has been editorialized time and time [again], and the perception of the county is sustained in thinking that we are disrespectful, fragmented and divisive.
“Our goal tonight is to turn this around, to impact the future in our efforts and do good deeds in this mission,” Wilson added.
Another recurring theme in Wilson’s remarks was that chickens, not geese, were the biggest contributors locally to pollution.
“There is an investigation that indicates the Delmarva Peninsula, including Maryland’s Eastern Shore, produces 570 million chickens per year,” she said. “If you factor that, the amount of manure is beyond calculation.
She said a 2002 national water quality study showed “agricultural runoff was the leading cause of river and stream pollution” and a 2007 EPA study revealed “excrement from factory chicken farms has contaminated groundwater in 17 states and polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states.”
“There are many sources of pollution and consideration is needed before we eradicate geese or other wildlife,” she said.
“I don’t want to see what happened to the geese happen again because, frankly, I really don’t believe [geese] are the culprit. I think it’s us and it’s the chicken farms – and what I’ve cited to you tonight points the fingers at the chicken farms,” Wilson added.
She said geese were highly intelligent and efforts to remove them from an area were shown to be ineffective.
“It’s survival of the fittest – the smartest geese will continue to thwart us as humans, and I believe our attempts to wipe them out are feeble and they won’t succeed,” she said. “I often think that they’re more advanced than us as human beings, and a lot of our superficial complaints and conflicts.”
Bailey, along with newly elected board members Steve Tuttle and Frank Daly, stuck around for about an hour of public comments.
Audience members, who did not identify whether they were Ocean Pines residents or homeowners, were still angry over what happened in June.
One woman said it had become difficult to drive by the south gate pond and no longer see the geese.
“I can hardly drive by that pond now and I have to every day, and I have a lump in my stomach and I’m almost in tears,” she said, adding trying to control the goose population “hasn’t worked in the past [and] it’s not going to work in the future, so we’ve gotta think of something else.”
Another woman said citizen committees could meet and discuss alternative solutions all they wanted, “but we need a commitment from the general manager and board members that our input would be considered.”
Bailey said there were recent examples of association leadership listening to the public, including the altering of country club renovations and reconsideration of plans for the crabbing pier.
“I don’t think that the board would be a deaf ear to a group of residents that has done their homework and done their research in putting together something,” he said. “That being said, whatever this group decides to do would also be incorporated with other things that the association gets from its committees, as well as additional research the association does in of itself.”
Tuttle said he had just become a board member last Saturday and met with someone to get information about geese on the following day.
“I think that kind of cooperation – that’s the kind of thing we really need from the community,” he said. “Help us find a compromise or a workable solution that’s in the best interest of all of the residents of Ocean Pines.”
Daly said every issue “requires a 306-degree view” and he would consider input from the committee as well as from groups like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture, Audubon Society and others.
“That 360-degree view is what I am going to base my vote on,” Daly said. “I don’t want to see what happened [happen again] any more than you do, but I will guarantee you if nobody does anything it will happen again, because the residents don’t want the park overrun and it’s necessary to have proper wildlife management.”
Bailey suggested anyone with concerns pay more attention to the budget process, which for years has including funding for “wildlife management,” and consider serving on the environment and natural assets committee that came up with the plan to control the Canada geese.
“Here’s your golden chance,” he said. “The resolution for the environmental and natural assets committee is that we have between three and nine members – currently there are five. Anybody that applies can apply for the four vacant openings.”
The Ocean Pines Geese and Ecology Brain Trust Initiative is scheduled to meet again on Sept. 18, Oct. 9 and Dec. 11.
Ocean Pines advisory committee applications are available in the Ocean Pines Administration Building on 239 Ocean Parkway, or online at www.oceanpines.org/forms-docs-cat/board-member-application.
To view a calendar of upcoming Ocean Pines advisory committee meetings, visit www.oceanpines.org/calendars/calendar/cat_ids~11.