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posted: 8/27/2013 6:00 AM

Saving the world, one duck at a time

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  • Naperville Park District police officers are handing out cards urging visitors not to feed the ducks or geese along the Riverwalk.

       Naperville Park District police officers are handing out cards urging visitors not to feed the ducks or geese along the Riverwalk.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 

OK. I'm a news junkie. Even on slow news days, my head is spinning with input from mass media, press releases and the online blogs I try to read with a worldly view. I attempt to connect words, then stories, trying to stay informed about public policy where it matters most -- locally.

As students head back to school, here's hoping they become independent thinkers who pay attention to current events. Here's hoping willful ignorance will not become their way of lifelong learning when they are capable of knowledge that can make a difference.

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Trying to embrace the public trust that comes with newspaper affiliation and ownership, I attempt to choose words that communicate a message with opinions that will be understood by as many readers as possible. My intention is never to be offensive, silly perhaps, but never hurtful. Sometimes it's tough to keep up with words and phrases that suddenly are deemed inappropriate.

Every single word has a meaning with a history, and many of the same-sounding words have different or double meanings. So now I'll lighten up a bit.

When our three children were little, I enjoyed as much as they did a read-aloud book of original riddles titled "Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles."

The word-playing answers to the clever riddles were illustrated pairs of words such as bare bear, bizarre bazaar and dear deer.

For instance, "What do you call the totally uninterested directors of a company? A bored board."

You get the picture.

For more than 15 years, I have been associated in one way of another with the Naperville Riverwalk. While attending Riverwalk Commission meetings in the mid-1990s, where its board never appeared bored, I became quite aware of clean-up maintenance that follows goose droppings.

As I observed well-meaning families tossing bread to the ducks at the water's edge, I recalled vacation spots where signs had been posted along riverbanks asking folks not to feed waterfowl.

Further research revealed feeding bread crumbs creates more than a clean-up mess; bread crumbs and other human snacks are unnatural and unhealthy for waterfowl. And excessive excrement from waterfowl dirties our rivers, lakes and streams.

I remember thinking, how hard could it be to educate folks that feeding ducks is harmful?

Wouldn't you know? I've found out many adults don't want to know.

You likely would not believe the angry response I received when I politely tried to educate a well-intentioned woman leaning on a sign that read, "Do not feed wildlife."

In fact, her confrontational reaction surprised me so much that my knees were trembling. I barely made it across the Moser Covered Bridge.

Another woman yelled, "I am so sick of all this political correctness!"

I've tried to let it go. Still, I've continued to write about it.

What nearly sent me over the edge earlier this summer was the sight of two plastic bread bags floating in the DuPage River. As the bags navigated the water alongside several geese, I anticipated where they were headed so I could retrieve them. I ran ahead, flattened myself out on the low-flow walk and fished out the two bags.

In a world where many big issues seem insurmountable, I think we could solve problems if we were to simplify our large challenges and tackle them one at a time.

I haven't given up.

That's why, after the fishing incident, I called Riverwalk Administrator Jan Erickson with the idea to produce a small card to hand to fowl-feeding folks with reasons to protect our wildlife.

I'm grateful Jan directed me to Naperville Park District Police Chief Carl Schnibben, to whom I suggested the cards could be distributed by park police in the spirit of park rangers.

Schnibben coordinated the idea with the marketing department. And the next thing I knew Riverwalk Commissioner Annmarie Siwik was sharing the prototype at the recent Riverwalk Commission meeting. The park district also added supporting info to its website.

Not long ago, I asked our middle child, "What wit and wisdom have I passed on to you?"

Without hesitation, he replied, "Don't feed the ducks."

I cried, "Foul fowl."

Getting back to riddles, I can't resist this one: What's another name for a stack of newspapers ready for recycling known as Daley's dailies? Harold's Heralds. Thanks for reading

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