Seattle battles to keep park greens free of goose poop
By Kathy F. Mahdoubi
On a grassy knoll of Gas Works Park on Wednesday, a small congregation of
Canada geese looked on contentedly as a gaggle of humans noisily gathered to
roll out what could prove to be their savior.
It's the Goose Goo Gone Machine, a patent-pending contraption on loan from
Victoria, British Columbia-based company Naturesweep. And if its inventor,
animal-welfare activists and city parks officials are right, it could mean
the end of rounding up geese and killing them to keep local parks goose-poop
The city of Seattle is the first municipality in the United States to try
out the device, a boxy little trailer with rotating bristles to pluck up the
"It's basically a carpet sweeper for grass," said Ed Zylstra, the inventor
and company co-founder.
The company is providing the device to the city for a free test drive as
part of a program by Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation and the
Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) to find nonlethal ways to rid
local green spaces of the fowl scat.
"There are ways to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts and coexist
peacefully," said Mark Gross, who runs the goose program for PAWS. "We hope
that this morphs into a permanent end to lethal removal."
According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, about 70,000 Canada
geese call Washington home. And each one can leave behind as much as 5
pounds of waste a day, rendering many parks and beaches unuseable by people.
The turf war came to a head from 2000 to 2003, when thousands of geese were
rounded up and killed. Finally, a truce was declared in 2004, when PAWS and
the city Parks Department established the Goose Program to try to find
Zylstra, a welder by trade, said he invented the machine after goose
droppings kept kids on the soccer team he coached from playing on Victoria's
The 4-foot-by-4-foot trailer is towed behind a small lawn tractor and has a
gas-powered motor that turns nylon bristles to "tickle" the grass without
damaging it. The droppings and other debris go into a hopper made of a
special plastic that can withstand the nitrogen-laden droppings.
Monday at Gas Works, Zylstra drove the tractor up and down the edge of Lake
Union to show off his invention as the geese honked in apparent approval.
After his brief spin, the hopper was not only full of poop, but also old
turf plugs, cigarette butts and spent fireworks. Zylstra claims it can also
pick up lighters, bottle caps and more sinister litter such as dirty
If the city ends up liking the Goose Goo Gone machine, it could buy them for
about $13,000 apiece, or less if they buy a bunch of them at once. Zylstra
said he would donate some of the proceeds to PAWS.
Barbara DeCaro, a Seattle Parks Department manager, acknowledged that the
price may seem steep. But she said that having poop-free parks would be
worth it. "Mechanizing our grounds labor is a huge benefit," DeCaro said.
"It's just really much more efficient."
Kathy F. Mahdoubi: 206-464-8292 or firstname.lastname@example.org