Parks officials on Wednesday night heard from a New Canaan woman who has a new idea for shaming those who walk dogs in Irwin Park and leave the animals’ feces behind, a continual problem that’s reared up recently.
Jean Scheidl said she would plant 4-by-6-inch vinyl ‘Shame On You’ flags on each individual pile of excrement left at the popular park in order to send a message to the irresponsible dog owners who leave them.
At last count, Scheidl said she spotted and a photographed 31 such messes on and around the Flexi-pave walk around the park’s perimeter.
“I think something has to be done because it is not pleasant, it really isn’t,” Scheidl told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.
“I think when people come back and see that it is not right then they maybe will stop doing it,” she said.
Members of the commission said they were willing to try the strategy, though Parks Superintendent John Howe offered up extra irrigation flags that the town already has so that Scheidl didn’t have to pay for the hardware. The commission also formed a subcommittee—composed of Francesca Segalas, Hank Green and Steve Haberstroh—to help coordinate the effort.
Asked by commissioner Gene Goodman whether she would be willing to collect the shaming flags after a period of time, Scheidl said yes.
“This is recurring problem in Irwin and Waveny and it keeps coming up to us and we need to do something about it,” Chairman Sally Campbell said. “It is hard but there are some drastic things we can do like not let dogs in the park.”
Campbell also noted that Officer Allyson Halm of the New Canaan Police Department’s Animal Control section is aware of the problem and had recently conducted a survey of Irwin Park visitors. Responses to the question “Why do you think dog walkers don’t pick up or leave the bag?” included “Selfish,” “They are dirty people,” “Idiots,” “Stupid,” “It’s sick, not normal,” “Lazy,” and “Privileged, someone else will do it.”
Haberstroh said he and his wife walk their dog at Irwin and that one additional sign toward the back of the park, together with the shaming flags, “would be tremendous.”
“Peer pressure is huge,” he said, adding that park-goers would be alarmed to see 35 ‘Shame On You’ flags and wouldn’t want them there.
Scheidl noted that there are two dog poop bag dispensers at Irwin Park—one at the start of the loop by Weed Street and another near a path that starts by the garage of the main house. Yet many dog walkers either don’t carry bags or else wait until their out-of-sight somewhere along the footpaths to leave the dog mess unbagged and abandoned.
Commissioners also suggested installing inconspicuous cameras in the park to catch offenders, creating new signs that instruct dog walkers to pick up after their animals if they don’t want them banned, and forcing those who register dogs each year to understand at that point that they must keep public parks clean.
To the assertion that New Canaan’s problem with dog feces is worse than it is in other places, Recreation Director Steve Benko disagreed, saying neighboring towns have the same problem.