Santa came a little early for Boise pooches this year: They're welcome to run free in much of Ann Morrison Park, turning a good portion of the half-century-old green space into the city's largest dog park.
"We've been kicking the idea around for a couple of years and thought this was the right time to give it a try," said Tom Governale, superintendent of parks with the City of Boise's Parks and Recreation Department. "We're anxious to see how many people come out with their pets during the winter months."
Dogs are now welcome to run leash-free from sunrise to sunset in an area of Ann Morrison Park, bordered by the park's eastern entrances near Capitol Boulevard to the fountain and from the Boise River in the north to the park's southern bluff.
"Dogs seem to be the most effective anti-goose tool," said Governale. "We don't want to completely eliminate the geese; they add to the ambiance. But we want to get to an acceptable level so they can coexist with the other uses of the park."
Over the years, Governale and his colleagues have tried several experiments to scare off geese.
"We've tried the coyote decoy cut-outs, we've tried hazing the geese with our utility vehicles. We even tried some egg addling," he said, referring to the process of removing fertilized eggs from nests, terminating the embryo development and returning the egg back to the nest.
"But that takes quite a while to be effective," said Governale.
And while he's excited to see more dogs run off-leash through Ann Morrison, Governale is equally anxious to see a lot less goose poop. The problem is simple: shit happens.
"They deposit a lot of fecal matter and walking through the park, it's hard to not get it on your shoes," said Governale. "There are definite health concerns."
And the winter months attract even more geese.
"We have resident geese but we also have an influx of migratory geese this time of year," he said. "Boise continues to grow and more people are wanting to get outdoors in the winter, so we're hearing more concerns."
The City of Boise already has four permanent dog off-leash parks and more off-leash areas in six more city parks, in addition to a number of dog-friendly trails in the Boise Foothills, but the Ann Morrison space will be available only until late February.
"The soccer teams usually start showing up at the end of February or by the beginning of March," said Governale. "We would just like to get more people--and their dogs--out in the park to see if the experiment will work."