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Huntington Beach group tells park visitors, ‘They Don’t Need the Feed’

Steve Engel  with a decal urging people not to feed wildlife in Central Park in Huntington Beach.
Steve Engel poses with a decal on a trash can urging people not to feed wildlife in Central Park in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Steve Engel chuckles when he discusses his reaction to the newest improvement made to Central Park in Huntington Beach: the installation of more than 100 new trash cans.

“It’s kind of funny to see a full-grown man get excited about trash cans, but it’s something we’ve kind of been waiting for,” the Huntington Beach resident said. “The other ones were pretty rusted out, and trash would be strewn all over the place from birds and people digging for aluminum cans. Now, we’ve got these nice ones that have lids on them so wildlife can’t really get in them.”

Engel and his wife, Shari, are members of the nonprofit Huntington Beach Tree Society, which works to help with upkeep of Surf City’s parks. He plans to slap decals carrying the slogan “They Don’t Need the Feed” in hopes of discouraging park visitors from feeding park wildlife. Banners with the logo, which was designed by Surf City artist Melissa Murphy, have already been put up in Central Park near Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe and Mike Bartusick‘s Park Bench Cafe.

“We figure 95% of the people get it, as far as the wildlife feeding, but there’s 5% that we need to help educate,” Engel said. “It’s not good for the animals. A lot of them end up in the animal hospital or dead. It’s not good for people, because the animals wind up biting the people that don’t feed them. They’ve been trained to go for food. Plus, it’s against the law. So there’s three good reasons why people shouldn’t be feeding animals in the parks.”

The H.B. Tree Society will continue to advocate for the city’s parks in other ways as well. Jean Nagy, the group’s founder and president, said the organization is currently planting 42 trees along the Shipley-to-Shore trail, which runs from Shipley Nature Center to the Pacific Ocean.

A decal urging people not to feed wildlife in Central Park in Huntington Beach on Tuesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Upkeep of the Secret Garden behind the Central Library, as well as the Urban Forest, are other essential areas of focus for the Tree Society. Engel said the group has a handful of members, including Juana Mueller and Betty Reinertson.

“You’d be amazed what can get accomplished with four to six determined people,” he said. “It’s a labor of love. We’re happy with the way things are looking, although there’s still room for more improvement. We encourage volunteers.”

The group falls under the Huntington Beach Central Park Council Subcommittee, which meets monthly. City Council members Barbara Delgleize and Natalie Moser are the two council liaisons. Engel is chair of the wildlife feeding ad hoc team.

“Most of us, so much of our time is spent in the park, we really know what needs to be accomplished,” Nagy said. “The city has been quite cooperative about taking our suggestions and improving the park.”

Delgleize said she has been working with the Tree Society since she was elected to the City Council in 2014.

“It’s really been one of the best parts of serving as a city council member, because the members who volunteer are so committed,” she said. “It is such a joy to be around them. They take great pride in the work they’ve done in the park, and they should, because without them we would not have Central Park looking like it does.”

She also encouraged people to volunteer, particularly those younger in age. The animals don’t need the feed, but the volunteers do need the reinforcements.

“They can learn, see what they’re doing and then they can kind of take over,” Delgleize said. “Don’t be afraid,” she says to potential volunteers, “because there’s plenty of really good people to train you.”

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