To the editor:
I agree with the residents who are opposed to a feeding ban in parks. Hungry animals will eat plastics and other debris lying on the ground to avoid starvation, and in winter, squirrels may eat tree bark to span snow days.
I once reported a dead squirrel hanging on a fence after days of snow, and the parks person I reported it to thought it had died from starvation. So people seem aware there’s stress, particularly during harsh months of the year.
Vermin stem from overflowing and rickety trash bins, or from food left on the ground after picnicking. If punitive measures are considered, they should be considered for littering.
But in general, the parks department should remain a benign presence, not a punitive one, and use education as their chief tool of influencing behavior. Personally, I would like to see them intercede on behalf of injured or sick wildlife in parks. It’s modeling that shows good environmental stewardship and care.
And how we treat the vulnerable does have impact on behavior elsewhere.
Other benign activities: anti-litter programs and campaigns; programs to address the quality of water in streams, lake and rivers as natural resources that benefit people, too; programs to improve natural resources in parks across the city; requests for capital budget items such as adequately sized trash bins with secure lids.
And every year, going to the community boards to ask for increased funding, which can be done by having the community boards issue resolutions. The city council is bound to act on them. If the budget is going up and down from year to year, that is not healthy for the park system or employees.
And the community boards and city council need to act far more aggressively on addressing this issue with urgency and focus. We live in an era when park acreage has increased, and budgets should be going up on that alone.