COSTA MESA — Their presence creates a scene from a wildlife painting. They wobble and wiggle, following one another en masse.
But the ducks, geese and other water fowl at TeWinkle Park are polluting and damaging the park, requiring thousands of dollars in cleanup and repair costs. In response, the
City Council voted last month to make it illegal to feed ducks, fish and other wildlife in or around the lake at TeWinkle.
The ordinance is scheduled to come back to the City Council Tuesday for a second and final vote before adoption.
Councilwoman Katrina Foley plans to encourage her colleagues to stop short of an outright ban on feeding the ducks and wants to find a creative way to maintain the park and keep it clean.
"I'm against creating a law that makes little kids out with their parents feeding the ducks … disorderly conduct," Foley said.
Crumbs of bread and other leftovers are considered unhealthy for fowl and can domesticate otherwise wild birds, making them reliant on humans for food.
So the outgoing councilwoman — she was recently elected to the school board — is encouraging the idea of providing bird food dispensaries and outreach programs that educate the public about the dangers of feeding birds human food.
Foley also hopes the city can create a program where families can adopt parts of the park and be responsible for cleaning it up.
"To me, this is one of the costs of doing business," she said. "To have this lake, you have to maintain it. I have a pool, it cost me to maintain the pool. But I choose to have a pool."
Foley said the ducks and other birds have for years made a home at the Orange County Fairgrounds across the street from TeWinkle.
They are less likely to abandon the area. At one point, the city had signs alerting drivers of crossing birds, she said.
City staff members say prohibiting the activities is the best way to keep the lake clean and efficient.
Nylon fishing lines have caused sub-surface circulation pipes to break, according to a city staff report. The breaks take place a few feet below the water and repairing them would require draining the lake and replacing the water, at a significant cost to the city, the report stated.
Algae growth has also dramatically increased in the last few years due to the poor water circulation and the fecal matter from overfed wildlife, the report stated. Trash and debris in some areas, combined with high levels of bacteria is making the park a potential health hazard, according to the report.
Earlier this year, the city spent $28,000 to repair two large pumps damaged from debris entering into them, the report stated.
Due to lack of funds and high costs, some damage was not repaired and the city was forced to deactivate the east upper water fall to stop the leaking, the report stated.
Mesa del Mar resident Lisa Reedy said she's terribly disappointed with the city's move to approve this new ordinance.
"We're talking about a small population of people that actually fish in that area," she said. "These are the opportunities to call our community to volunteer and take ownership of our community parks."