BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The city’s downtown pocket park is a new beacon of the energy of downtown – along with new coffee offerings, toys, movies, and bangers and mash.
But it’s also being treated as the town’s doggie doo doormat – and Fort Madison City Councilwoman Rebecca Bowker has had enough.
“I was walking downtown (Thursday) with some engineers about a future project, and we stopped in front of the pocket park to brag about the improvements a bit,” Bowker said.
“And just standing there I noticed nothing but dog doo everywhere. And I was just mortified that we have so many irresponsible pet owners here.
“We’re trying so hard to come up with things to make our town beautiful and a place to be, but it’s hard to do that when we can’t even walk in our own parks.”
Bowker has personally paid to have the park cleaned up, has put in the sweat equity, along with other members of the city’s beautification foundation, by moving rock, scraping and painting, and applying for grants.
The pergola is a new feature with updated lighting and free WiFi for park users.
Bowker said the simplest answer is for social policing, but said she’s just about ready for anything to ‘stop the drop’.
“Our police are doing everything they can with the staff they have and they have their hands full. I can say something to the chief, but we really have to take on responsibility here.”
In November when Rita Hart had a campaign stop at the park, about 30 in attendance had to watch where they were stepping while she spoke.
Bowker said there is even a doggie station at the park with bags to pick up the droppings and dispose of them properly.
“We want people to use it and for it to be a resource in the community. But it’s hard to enjoy when you have to watch where you step and then deal with the smell,” she said.
“We’ve spent a significant amount of money in the park to make it enjoyable and we have to do a better job of caring for it.”
She even suggested people using phones to self report or possibly start local public social media campaigns with tags like #StopTheDrop to create a buzz around helping keep the city’s parks clean, possibly even moving to citywide campaigns.
Bowker said the foundation is considering purchasing hidden cameras to monitor that situation and other criminal situations around the downtown, but said really it’s just overcoming laziness.
“It’s not just the pocket park, even in front of my personal building it’s a problem. Maybe businesses need to put out bag dispensers to create more awareness of the problem,” she said.
“I’m so open to ideas about the best way to go forward to tackle this problem. But I think it comes to down simply to some people being just lazy.”
To that end Pen City Current is asking for your best doggie do-good hazmat photo. Take a photo of a good doggie-deed use #StopTheDrop and tag us @PenCityCurrent. We’ll pick one photo each month and award $20 in Chamber bucks.