"DO NOT FEED WILDLIFE" messages stenciled into portions of Naperville's Riverwalk apparently aren't enough.
Neither are River Wildlife Cards that Naperville Park District police have been handing out for nearly a year with information about the harmful effects of human foods on waterfowl.
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In the struggle to stop people from feeding animals along the Riverwalk, one Naperville resident thinks volunteers could be the answer.
John Nepywoda is proposing a volunteer group be formed to walk along the 1.75-mile path and teach people that feeding the ducks and geese is not a good idea.
"If we could educate people and get folks who could have an elevator speech, a 1- to 2-minute 'here's why this is not good for the wildlife' speech," Nepywoda said, "it might be a little more meaningful to people."
Riverwalk commissioners on Wednesday praised the idea of having volunteers teach how not feeding ducks and geese helps the animals stay healthy, protects them from predators, aggression and overcrowding, and helps the river stay clean.
Volunteer educators could be more effective than posted signs, said Jeff Havel, Riverwalk Commission chairman.
"The additional interaction I think is good," Havel said. "We don't want to have signs all over the place."
Although Nepywoda, an environmental consultant who lives in the RiverPlace development of condos and apartments along the Riverwalk, originally proposed new signs, he now says he agrees.
"I realized that's really not the answer because people are ignoring the signs," Nepywoda said.
Chuck Papanos, park operations manager for the Naperville Park District, said he will bring the volunteer idea to Brad Wilson, director of recreation, to see if a group can be formed. Papanos said people need to learn not to feed geese, especially, because when geese expect to be fed, they can become more aggressive around children.
Feeding waterfowl also can cause them to congregate, become more susceptible to disease and dirty the water with extra poop.
"It is fun to watch them swim around, but it really doesn't do the wildlife any good," Jan Erickson, Riverwalk administrator, said.
Nepywoda said he would be willing to serve as a wildlife education volunteer, because he already has passed out a couple dozen River Wildlife Cards since they were printed last summer. If a volunteer group is formed, Nepywoda suggested the park district outfit members with T-shirts, hats or badges so people know they are official Riverwalk volunteers. Erickson said that idea will be considered.
Stephanie Penick, who developed the River Wildlife Cards and serves as Riverwalk Foundation chairwoman, said many people see the message stamped into the path advising them not to feed the wildlife, but they do it anyway. She said she was encouraged to hear of the proposal to spread wildlife knowledge through volunteer efforts.
"I'm glad somebody else is thinking it's a good idea," Penick said.