by Jim Keyworth
roundup staff reporter
Amy von Somogyi believes the ducks and geese that hang out at Green Valley Park are in peril, and she wants to do something about it.
Early in the morning and again at sunset, the waterfowl cross Country Club Drive en route from one lake to another.
"People coming around that curve frequently don't have time to stop and they keep getting hit by cars," she said.
To make matters worse, von Somogyi said, when one does get hurt, all the government agencies abdicate responsibility.
"A while ago, a goose got hit and I tried to get it some help," she said. "The Parks department said they aren't responsible, because they didn't put the birds there in the first place people did. Arizona Game and Fish said they're not responsible because they are domestic birds not wild ones."
Finally von Somogyi got assistance from the Payson Humane Society.
"They called Whispering Hope Ranch and they said they'd take it if we could catch it," she said. "The humane society helped me try to catch it, but we couldn't. That bird lived in pain for three weeks before it finally died."
When another duck got hit Tuesday night, von Somogyi decided it was time for action.
"It was flailing and in agony and nobody was willing to take it to a vet," she said. "I walk five miles a day at the park six days a week, and there are a lot of people who frequent the park who love those ducks and geese like their own children. There are others who hate them."
Payson Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind said he was even asked by the homeowner's association for the condos across the street to look into having the birds eradicated.
"Apparently they make a lot of noise between midnight and 4 a.m.," Schwind said.
He had Arizona Wildlife Services survey the waterfowl population at the park and provide a quote for their removal. The agency offered to solve the problem by stunning the birds with poisoned bread, then either relocating or euthanizing them.
"We don't want to go to that extreme, so we're kind of at a crossroads with the birds," Schwind said. "Basically we let them be, but we don't provide them any habitats or anything."
Schwind guesses there are about 70 ducks and geese in Green Valley Park and that their numbers have remained fairly steady over the years. He agreed with von Somogyi that many park visitors love the waterfowl.
One of the qualities people either love or hate is the way a line of birds will start across the street, only to turn around and go right back to the other side.
"One changes its mind and turns around right in the middle of the street and they all follow," von Somogyi said. "They're just such bird brains."
But motorists who have to slam on their brakes and then wait while the birds waddle across and then sometimes right back across Country Club Drive sometimes lose their patience.
Besides not being able to stop in time, birds are frequently hit when impatient motorists try to drive around or through them.
The situation is also hazardous to motorists, von Somogyi said.
"When people do stop for the ducks, other drivers can come around the curve and rear-end them," she said.
While there are yellow diamond signs with images of ducks on them to alert motorists at either end of the crossing area, von Somogyi said it isn't enough.
"The speed limit needs to be reduced through there to 15 miles an hour, or even less, and there needs to be signs that say 'Duck Crossing' in big, bold letters."
With birds falling by the wayside, she thinks the time for action is now and she's willing to be the point person. Options she's considering include making a presentation to the Payson Town Council, a petition drive, and/or taking up a collection to pay for more signs and for any veterinary bills incurred getting treatment for injured birds.
If the condo homeowner's association ever gets its way, that could become a moot point.
For more information, or to join the cause, call von Somogyi at 472-6268.