Poop posse presents its case to village board

Stations such as this on the Saranac Lake River Walk, seen Feb. 1, contain plastic bags dog walkers can use to clean up their pets’ feces, but some village officials say too many people don’t use them. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

SARANAC LAKE — A group of local residents dubbed “the poop posse” made its case for a task force to be established at the village board meeting Monday night, encouraging responsible dog waste disposal downtown.

“I’m pretty appalled by the problem with dog poop in this village,” said Cris Winters of Saranac Lake, “sheriff” of the poop posse. “Although I began this poop posse project as a practice in simply talking with dog owners I encountered, offering bags and doing some education — it’s become obvious to me that including more people in the organization would be more effective in solving the problem.”

She stressed the need for greater communication and partnership over the issue. Winters asked that a task force be raised, comprised of board members and local residents.

“I know that the village, and we tax payers, have spent a lot of money on the Riverwalk,” said Emily Martz of Saranac Lake. “We’re driving residents, we’re driving visitors towards it. And there’s a prevalence of dog doo along the way.”

Winters brought with her an informal petition she’d circulated among local business owners and residents. She said she had 80 signatures, with half being business owners.

“I have a pedestrian walkway across my property,” said Bruce Darring, who owns part of the private land that the Riverwalk passes through. “It’s been covered in poop for 20 years.”

He used to allow dogs to be walked through, but after overhearing a conversation between two elderly women passing through his land, Darring said no more.

“The one lady said, ‘Gee the river is running so swiftly.’ And the other lady said, ‘Gotta be careful, there’s manure everywhere,'” Daring said. “And I just thought, ‘This is my property they’re talking about.'”

Darring said now that he’s put up “Walk your dog around” signs on his property, he’s successfully dissuaded dog feces. He said every Saturday morning at 8 a.m., he sees a flock of dog owners descend on the Riverwalk, let their dogs poop and then return to their apartments.

“If you don’t want it, set up a dog park somewhere,” Darring said. “If you want to have a Riverwalk, it’s going to be difficult to have a dog walk along with it.”

Village Manager John Sweeney said he talked with village police Chief Chuck Potthast, and that they were working on solutions.

“You talk about the enforcement side,” said village Trustee Paul Van Cott, “but there’s also what can (the village Department of Public Works) do to do more about keeping things clean, but then ultimately it’s the social consciousness.”

Mayor Clyde Rabideau said the village board would try to organize a meeting between the poop posse, the DPW and law enforcement before the next village board meeting, which is on Jan. 14.