The congregation of citizens numbered around 50. They gathered for a public forum about how best to deal with an irksome population of Canadian geese.
The assembly inside the Coon Rapids City Center felt no love for what lifelong resident Connie Ridge had to say. The majority had already voiced its desire to do something about the city's geese -- or more accurately, their prodigious amount of excrement.
But Ridge was speaking on behalf of the birds. If there was a problem with too much poop on the swaths of green space in this northern suburb (pop. 61,500), that was news to her.
"The problem isn't the geese. The problem is fussy-ass people, most of them who own town homes," says Ridge. "I'm a realtor and I know what people want when they own a town home. They don't want to do anything. They certainly don't want to possibly step in some geese poop. They want a maintenance-free life that they can just pay for everything to go away."
The city council wasn't feeling any love for Ridge's opinion either. The panel unanimously approved this year's goose plan, which includes erecting woven wire fencing along bodies of water like Crooked Lake, trapping, poop pickup, and hunting.
Public Works Director Tim Himmer refuses to use the word "killing." He instead carefully uses the word "removal" to explain what Coon Rapids is about to undertake. Regardless of terminology, he does say that the meat from what should be a harvest of anywhere from 75 to 105 birds will make its way to food shelves, whereas the goslings "removed" will be ground up into animal feed.
He justifies the thinning of the flock in terms of public nuisance and water pollution.
According to the plan, the birds' existence often comes with "Human Use Conflicts." At Bunker Hills Golf Course and on Coon Rapids' various athletic fields, the negative impacts are "fecal deposits, turf damage, aggressive behavior, etc."
Officials also make the case that the suburb's creeks and lakes are being defiled by E.coli "from wildlife and goose excrement."
Of all the animals considered in the wildlife category, the plan says, geese are responsible for "approximately 40 percent" of the matter producing E.coli in impaired water bodies.
"This is about health and safety, kids on the playing fields, and the amount of complaints we're getting from private landowners," says Himmer.
Ridge isn't buying.
"You know just as well as I do goose poop isn't the only thing that's going down the gutter drain," she says. "They just want a reason they can point to blame as to why we're going to kill geese."
Ridge isn't alone in her disgust, albeit for different reasons.
Resident Dallas Rising's letter in the local newspaper earlier this month called out the city for what she perceives as whacked priorities.
He notes how about half of all students at Coon Rapids Middle and High schools "are receiving free or reduced lunch because their families can’t afford to feed them."
Spending thousands of taxpayer dollars "to kill geese because they poop" while kids go hungry, he opined, "is morally unacceptable.…"
If Coon Rapids has that kind of extra cash lying around, "let’s give that money to the food shelf directly to feed kids who won’t have access to school lunch over the summer," suggested Rising.
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