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Boston Won’t Make Way For Geese

Boston loves to show off its sweet, staring role in Make Way for Ducklings, the children’s book that culminates in cops helping ducks across the street. They’ve got duckling statues, duckling contests and it is seemingly mandatory to display the book in stores. Yet the city isn’t helping its non-fiction waterfowl. For nearly three decades a flock of white and gray geese have lived on the Charles River near Boston University, but their advocates say a renovation plan is pushing them out.

“They insist they have this beautiful park but they have no use for free animals,” says Robert J. La Trémouille, a blogger who is one of the Friends of the White Geese, which is kind of the like the geese’s political lobbying arm. This flock of 60-80 White China, Emden, and Toulouse geese have lots of friends and fans. La Trémouille says Bostonians have visited geese–a rare survivor on the polluted Charles–since at least 1981, when a plant got “guard geese.” But some say the geese go back 60 years.

Another group, the Charles River Urban Wilds Initiative, concern themselves with the geese’s day-t0-day care. Many, like Boston University writing lecturer Allison Blyer, take it on themselves to deliver healthy food (veggies, duck food) and occasional medical care. They notice individual characters and quirks. The current leader, Buddy, is about 20 years old. Pinky, pictured above, is known as a real character, sayd Blyer: “He is very bonded to us and likes to peck cameras. He also loves tomatoes, parsley, apples, saltines, and his mate, Blue.” Many more casually stop by with kids–especially in gosling season–and offer leftovers.

But meanwhile, Trémouille says, those who want to keep the river area sterile put oil on the geese’s eggs. (Though some say they are only target the more invasive Canada goose.) The state’s Dept. of Conservation and Recreation has dug up their nesting area, put a plastic barrier by Magazine Beach and redid the area with athletic fields that rely heavily on pesticides instead of the natural landscaping the geese provide, La Trémouille says.

Nearby overly landscaped ballfields have lead to algae blooms, he says. Indeed the EPA notes the river is polluted, mainly from sewers. Some worry about the waste the geese leave behind, but that’s nothing compared to the dead zone that will be produced when a power plant starts discharging hot water into the river. The state produced a master plan for the river, including Magazine Beach, which it hopes “to discourage the growth of a flock of feral geese.” They want to put up signs discouraging feeding–like the alarmist warnings in Boston Common that conflate feeding birds with a human health crisis.

La Trémouille says he doesn’t want to stop the renovation, just let the geese who have lived and delighted people on the Charles for generations be part of it. He hopes people will tell Gov. Deval Patrick, the DCR and local pols to let the geese stay. Doesn’t seem that enjoying a flock of unusual geese should be that antithetical to enjoying a park and river.

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