Did you know you can’t feed the animals at Central Park anymore?

I didn’t. I didn’t know there was an ordinance passed that you can’t feed the animals at City and County Parks here in Santa Clara County.

When my sister in law was visiting from  Northern Ireland in September, we were out and about with the kids, just chilling and having a good time.  I had gathered a wee bit of old bread, and made a plan to take us over to Central Park to feed the ducks and geese.  It seemed like a nice place for photo ops and just some bonding time between my SIL and her nieces. 

So we get there just after lunch, it was a fabulously sunny and warm, and walk around the path towards the duck ponds.  My children were all excited about the ducks, and eagerly reached into my backpack to get the bread.  Not thinking hard about it,  I broke up the bread and tossed some crumbs into the water for the few ducks that had gathered at waters edge.  Well, one duck leads to another, then the geese and pigeons get involved, and  soon we had hundreds of webbed toed friends squawking at us for the morsels. My children squealed and jumped around with delight.  Well, so did my SIL and I, its amazing watching two little kids have that kind of fun.

I guess our commotion attracted a City worker, which brought him over in a huff. “Please don’t feed the animals”  he said.   I replied, half joking, half smart-ass “Technically they aren’t animals, they are waterfowl” He raced back to his truck and continued his work.

We turned back to the birds, and by this point the bread was nearly gone, maybe a few handfuls, and we were taking family type pictures.  While the girls were still laughing wildly, the City worker came back with an awful stance, and basically told us, we were disturbing the peace.  Now, mind you, there were only maybe 5 or 6 other people in the area of the park we were in.  He was probably  pretty mad at my remark, I thought. 

Just as we were finishing up, and talking about going to the playground, a Police Patrolman strode up behind us to demand stopping our activity.  He stood a few inches from my face, reprimanding me for our behavior, ignoring the posted signs and ignoring the City worker.  He wasn’t civil about it, nor did he back down when I took my sunglasses off (out of respect), and agreed I understood what he was saying.  He offered up a couple of reasons as to why we should stop. He said something about recent animal poisoning, the mess the birds make, and something about the ordinance.  But he got so intimidating that his words became fuzzy, and I just wanted to get my family out of there.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been a smart-ass to the City worker, my bad I know.  But why should they reject ten minutes of pure pleasure for two little kids?  Why did that City worker have to call the police?  Why did that Policeman have to be so bad-ass to WOMEN AND CHILDREN feeding the ducks?  Now when my oldest sees any policeman she asks

You can take a photo, but don't feed!

You can take a photo, but don't feed!

if he’s going to yell at us too.  So, in the end we were banned from that part of the park.  We could go to the playground as long as all food had been tossed away.  No, we left the park, I don’t think we’ll go back. If I see that City worker face to face, I might throw some bread at him.

3 Comments so far

  1. Jennifer Bullock (jennifer) on October 13th, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

    Wow that was totally uncalled for! He would have made more of an impact if he came to you saying "I know this might sound kind of out there.. but unfortunately there is this ordinance…" etc etc. But my god, for the policeman to treat you, in front of your children, like that? Geez. I’m sorry you had to deal with that. Have you thought about writing to the city or to someone at the San Jose City police department?


  2. mrskarenf on October 14th, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for your remarks.
    I did consider writing to the Santa Clara County department of Parks and Rec, but I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere. And since I didn’t get a name of the police officer, writing to the Police Dept. probably would have been fruitless.
    The park itself is very nice, and has a lot to offer. If you ever consider going there, it’s in the City of Santa Clara,
    909 Kiely Boulevard
    (between Homestead Road and Benton Street)


  3. Victor Solanoy (vsolanoy) on October 14th, 2008 @ 9:54 pm

    I’ve had the same thing happen with my wife and the kids at Lake Cunningham quite a few years back. I spoke afterwards to the Park Ranger and she explained that they continually tell people not to feed the animals every day. She didn’t understand why people simply don’t read the signs. While some people stop after being told, the Park Ranger mentioned that some people become offended and get nasty when told to stop. While your smart remark might have been a joke, you’ve got to realize that you were probably not the person told to stop.

    It’s not a new ordinance. It’s actually been around for at least 7 years.

    While poison is one reason to not feed the animals/waterfowl, it actually goes beyond that. Migratory birds who are fed tend not to leave, resulting in a great number getting sick or dying because of a lack of food and cold winter weather. Also, when the animals don’t leave, they don’t give the park water resources a break, so bacteria levels increase over time, forcing the park to limit use of those resources.

    While 10 minutes of fun may seem brief, imagine if every family had their 10 minutes.

    I don’t mean to sound preachy — like I said, my family experienced the same thing, but the ordinance exists for the good of the animals, visitors and the park resources.



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