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Our View: Cascade Lake Park should not fall prey to geese

Cascade Lake Park is quickly becoming overrun with geese as the investments and development there continue.

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Our View
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On a glorious afternoon this week in Rochester, Cascade Lake Park bustled with activity.

Some kids pumped water into a meandering artificial creek bed. Others tested their skills on a playground structure built of logs, complete with cargo nets for climbing. It was a bit warm for the big metal slide, but conditions were perfect for youngsters to try their hand on the huge musical instruments that dot the park's landscape.

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Adults relaxed in the pergola and chaise lounge area, perhaps after taking a stroll on the well-manicured garden paths. And all the while, a constant stream of bikers, runners and dog-walkers cruised by on the paved trail that encircles Cascade Lake.

It was a perfect scene.

Well, almost perfect.

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A few yards from the park, behind a chain-link fence, lies a beach that should be the focal point of the new crown jewel of Rochester's parks system. It's big enough to accommodate hundreds of swimmers and sunbathers, with water that deepens very gradually from shore, rather than dropping off quickly. The water itself appears almost crystal-clear and inviting.

But on this glorious summer afternoon, not a beach blanket or beach umbrella could be found on the sand. Nary a child was wading in the water or building a sand castle. The gate to the beach was wide open, but no one showed any interest in using it.

No one, that is, except the geese.

Frankly, it's disgusting. The closer you get to the water's edge, the more poop you'll encounter. The geese themselves have almost no fear of people, and they behave as if they own the place – which seems to be the case.

A sign posted on the fence next to the gate warns of elevated bacteria levels in the lake, and that ingesting the water could make you sick. “Swimming is NOT recommended.”

Ya think?

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Geese at Cascade Lake Park on Tuesday, July 26, 2022.
Eric Atherton / contributed

Granted, Cascade Lake Park is still a work in progress, and goose control ranks fairly low on the city's priority list for the area – a list that currently includes construction of a performance amphitheater and fishing pier.

And yes, we must acknowledge that geese aren't the only cause of problems at the beach. Any Minnesota lake with warm, shallow water can be prone to bacterial problems in mid-summer, especially when heavy rains bring a lot of runoff.

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But you don't have to be a water-quality scientist to see that geese are a big part of the problem at Cascade Lake Park. No one wants to watch their barefoot children navigate a minefield of goose poop on their way to the water, and what's the point of letting kids swim if you worry every time they get splashed in the face?

While the city's options are somewhat limited when dealing with a federally protected waterfowl species, its hands aren't totally tied. At the very least, we'd like to see some canine “decoys” that might temporarily push the geese elsewhere. Noise deterrence is another option, as would be the use of dogs specifically trained to harass geese without harming them. And, we strongly support the use of any legal means to reduce the nesting success of geese that lay their eggs in Rochester parks. Goslings are adorable, but they grow up WAY too quickly.

But ultimately, we believe the city might need to try an additional strategy; namely, the creation of a grassy, lawn-like area on the other side of the lake that will essentially lure the geese away from the park itself.

This would be a “If you can't beat them, join them” plan. Geese don't like shorelines with tall vegetation, but they love open, grassy areas along the water's edge – so why not give it to them? Fence the area off and prohibit people and dogs from entering. Such an effort might seem to be at cross purposes with other goose-control methods, but Rochester needs to explore all options.

When all is said and done, the city will have spent about $15 million in local and state funds to create Cascade Lake Park. For that kind of investment, Rochester residents should end up with something better than another version of “goose poop park.”

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