An open letter to the Ocean Pines Association General Manager And Board Of Directors, local news media, and any other interested parties
I am an Ocean Pines homeowner of more than 30 years and have lived here full time since 2008. I have acquired three homes here over the years, all occupied by family.
I lived in many locations during my life and working career. When the time came that I could buy a vacation home that would eventually be used for retirement, I looked in many places. My husband liked woods and mountains and fireplaces, yet I wanted to be at or near the beach. Neither of us wanted to live in any of the pristine and lovely gated communities we visited over the years – they were all nice, but we were looking for something more natural, more in tune with nature.
One of the qualities that drew me to this community was the abundance of trees and water and waterfowl and other wildlife here in a sylvan setting where one could be near the shore. Remarkably, in Ocean Pines it was possible to reside in beauty and serenity equivalent to a nature preserve, and daily to walk and drive among trees and water, and observe all kinds of wildlife. A restorative place hidden away from the hustle and bustle of city life and demanding jobs. Each year, I never failed to marvel at all that exists in this beautiful place.
This year, my peace of mind and enjoyment of this community was shattered by the ill conceived and poorly executed decision to massacre hundreds of geese families this spring. I was sickened by this tragedy, utterly shocked and appalled by what occurred. My trust in the OPA leadership and volunteer committees was severely damaged by the secret planning and decision making that occurred with no opportunity for broad community input – especially before taking such a harsh and irrevocable action that destroyed multiple geese families, creatures that I and many other residents had enjoyed having here so much.
I am sure that the persons responsible for the goose kill felt that they were making a hard decision that was necessary and unavoidable, and that they believed that the unannounced cover of darkness for the killing was appropriate to avoid chaos and controversy. To this, I say, “how sad, and how wrong.”
Because of illness and family commitments, I was unable to attend the open meetings that followed the goose kill. In reading all the news reports and comments, it was clear that a wide range of strong views existed about what happened. As I pondered the situation and waited for my emotions to subside, I resisted writing letters of outrage and disappointment many times in the months that have followed. But today I would like to go on record to express some alternate views that I hope will be accorded respect and consideration. They are as follows:
• The flocks of geese around our ponds and grassy areas in OP are a benefit, not a nuisance. Geese are large and beautiful creatures who mostly mate for life and carefully nurture and guide their young. The sights of two goose parents protecting their newborn chicks and later leading adolescent goslings in processions with a watchful eye, is something wondrous to behold (and a good lesson for humans). It never failed to bring a smile to my face and a brief feeling of peace and good will as I made my way around the community.
• The restorative power of nature and animals as an antidote for human stress and angst has been well documented in medical studies. Better than Prozac and pill popping and other self-medications, the ability to see and interact with nature is a natural healing resource that should be protected, not eradicated.
• The various reports of pollution and other health concerns that were circulated as justifications for the killing of the geese flocks overstated the problem and ignored alternative solutions.
• Using dogs to harass and chase away the geese won’t solve the “perceived problem” that some have expressed. Furthermore, this action continues to interfere with my rights to enjoy the benefits that geese and other wildfowl have provided to me as a property owner. When I drive by South Pond now, instead of the pleasant sight of geese and ducklings bathing and eating and nesting, I am faced with blaring red signs “Do not feed” and barren, sparsely populated shores intermittently being policed by man and dogs. The whole scene is jarring, and ugly, and unnecessary.
Here is what I propose instead: three simple, humane, and safe approaches as follows:
• Be a better steward of life and property by making a paradigm shift in the way that the geese are regarded and managed in Ocean Pines. Recognize that the geese are native creatures and should be here to stay, even in abundance. Understand that they provide substantial benefits to the quality of life here.
• Manage the issue of goose droppings by using a combination of volunteer cleanups and paid custodial work efforts to clean up as needed in areas where humans gather and walk. This is not so difficult as it sounds and would be cheaper and immensely more humane than the ill-advised measures used so far.
• Rather than forbid feeding, resume the time-honored activity of allowing people to see and feed the wildfowl. This activity is something amusing, positive and joyful for both adults and children in today’s polarized and often angry, stressed out world. (One of my earliest and most pleasant childhood memories was being taken by my parents to feed the geese who gathered by a large body of water near National Airport in Washington.)
Speaking only for myself, but with hope and some confidence that there are others out there who will agree with me, I would be willing to have a small portion of my association dues be allocated to wildfowl cleanup (just as is done for people cleanup). If this action cannot receive sufficient public support to go forward as a regularly budgeted expense, I would be willing to contribute out of my own pocket to a true “conservation and environmental protection program” that uses a combination of contributed funds, part-time hired help, and common sense cleanup measures rather than a cruel and ineffective program of organized killing and harassment.
I would also be willing to participate in some type of volunteer program that would share the work of cleanup for specified areas. By breaking such yard and walkway efforts into small assigned areas and manageable tasks, OP residents could both enjoy proximity to nature and carry out truly purposeful conservation activity. Perhaps a few local business might also be induced to participate, as is done for some highway cleaning efforts.
What I am not willing to do is to continue to stand silent in dismay and disappointment while changes are made in this community that affect me and others so negatively. Living here has not been the same since the goose kill. The prospects of ever getting back to the pleasant earlier times seem dim unless all involved can find a way to recognize that Ocean Pines waterfowl are one of the benefits of living here, not a nuisance, and deal with them accordingly.
I don’t want to move away from Ocean Pines in disappointment and disgust – I want to live here and promote a better life for everyone and everything in the community. Persons who wish to work toward this end are invited to contact me with comments and suggestions via email at email@example.com.