As hints of spring start to blossom here in Juneau, the smell of blooming petals aren’t the only thing sure to be wafting in the air as the snow melts — piles of dog poop will also be making their spring debut.
“I’m always worried about dog poop — it’s a never-ending issue,” said Colby Shibler, the City and Borough Juneau Parks and Landscape supervisor.
Shibler said since he started with the city back in 2013, the issues with owners not picking up after their pets have gotten increasingly worse. He said the city spends about $10,000 a year on dog poop bags, a dramatic cost increase compared to even five years prior. That cost pays for about 320,000 bags that are then dispersed across 50 dispensers around Juneau.
“That money that could be going toward other park things,” he said. “It’s taking away resources that could be used for a lot more fun things than dog poop bags.”
Even with that effort — which equates to 877 bags used per day — Shibler said he expects park closures will need to be put in place this spring to address the growing problem.
“It’s the only avenue we have to stop anything like this from happening,” he said. “It’s a really serious issue, and has really gotten out of hand.”
He said the “problem hot spots” in Juneau seem to be the grassed area near Sandy Beach, Capital School Park and the Melvin Park playing fields, to name a few. In 2020, he said the poop was so excessive in these areas and others, the city closed down several parks citing concerns over health and safety standards.
Dog poop is also one of the main reasons the Twin Lakes swimming area is often closed down during parts of the summer due to the fecal coliform count being too high, he said.
George Utermohle, board member of Grateful Dogs of Juneau, said the advocacy group is already preparing to host multiple volunteer cleanup days in the coming months to address the problem. He said picking up after pets is a part of being a responsible resident.
“We continue to encourage dog owners to pick up after their dogs and be responsible dog owners,” he said. “It’s an ongoing effort.”
Utermohle said educating new and existing dog owners about the importance of picking up after their pets is the key to addressing the issue, and noted the group will continue to place signs in public areas to encourage pick-up habits.
Shibler said the city plans to fence off a fielded area located behind Melvin Park’s Field 1, which once complete, will be used as a designated dog park area. The project is expected to be completed by late spring, he said.
In the meantime, he said the city always encourages people to pick up after their pets to keep the parks open and safe for all residents.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.