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Geese be gone? Waterfront project aims to keep geese away from lakeshore

The Lake Bemidji waterfront offers a view of the lake, a sloping hill, a fishing pier - and the opportunity to see geese and their droppings.

A two-fold plan would utilize plants and a fence to hopefully keep geese away from the waterfront and reduce their impact on the area.

The Bemidji Rotary Club and Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce are leading the Lake Bemidji Waterfront Project in the hopes of revitalizing the waterfront and re-establishing it as the "front door" to the downtown area.

The waterfront hosts numerous popular events throughout the year, including the Jaycees Water Carnival and Lake Bemidji Dragon Boat Festival.

Geese are impacting the festivals, along with everyday activities such as picnicking, according to representatives from the Rotary and Chamber.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the best way to reduce goose problems on the lakeshore is to landscape the area with plants, because geese avoid areas where plants obstruct their view, according to information on the project.

"The great thing about this plan is we're not coming here to ask for money," said Bemidji Rotarian Scott Turn, who outlined the project during Monday's City Council work session along with Rotarian Gary Johnson and Chamber Executive Director Lori Paris.

Instead, they are pursuing a $40,000 grant through the DNR that would cover the cost for the plants, while the Bemidji Rotary Club has pledged $5,000 and hopes to receive a matching grant from its Rotary district to pay for the fencing, Turn said.

The fence would be 400 feet long and would be about 36 inches high. It would include six gates to allow access to the water. It is planned to offer "minimal blocking of (the) panoramic lake view," according to project information. The posts would be commercial-grade vinyl and cable would be situated between them.

Low-level plants and shrubs would be planted between the fence and the beach.

When asked if the fence would still provide access for those involved in Fishing Has No Boundaries, which offers children with disabilities the opportunity to fish, Turn said the group plans to make contact with all of the organizations that utilize the area.

The project also should not affect winter activities at the waterfront, where children often use the hill for sledding, Turn said. Snow fences could possibly be used to section off sledding lanes, he explained.

If the project is approved for the DNR grant, Turn said he would return to the council to present final plans before improvements are made.

The City Council unanimously voted in support of the effort. Mayor Richard Lehmann was pleased the group was pursuing grant opportunities.

"Hopefully, we can do something about that goose population," he said.

Councilor Nancy Erickson said she was at the waterfront on Saturday walking her dog and the geese were not bothered by her presence.

"The geese couldn't have cared less," she said. "They're so people-oriented now."

Erickson also was concerned the geese would just go somewhere else, either to Diamond Point Park or other areas along the lakeshore.

"They're going to exit someplace," she said.

Turn said he has heard it reported that the geese population will soon double due to a reduction in the number of hunters and predators.

"It's going to be a continuing problem," he said.

A possibility that may be considered later on for the waterfront revitalization project is the incorporation of a trail or walkway, Turn said.

Also, for those who insist on feeding the geese, he said, a feeder site could be considered away from the waterfront, possibly between Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving, although Turn himself did not necessarily support doing so.

Neither did Councilor Jerry Downs, who said he would rather people didn't feed the geese at all.