June 21, 2012

Park management is often a careful balancing act between the often opposing pulls of human design and natural environments. 
This is especially true in the wilderness- embedded campgrounds of Baxter State Park.  The conflicts and issues that develop can involve the interactions between complex and changing natural systems and the sometimes more inflexible constants of human structures and settings.  A perfect example is the Parks current effort at managing the effects of Canada geese at Kidney Pond Campground.  Over the past 5 years or so, a group of Canada geese have made a summer home at Kidney Pond.  The pond setting provides a relatively safe habitat for these large beautiful birds with the refuge provided by the pond as well as ready access to a large mown lawn for grazing.  At first, campground visitors and staff found the geese to be interesting and exciting newcomers, but as the goose droppings accumulated in traffic areas of the mown lawn of the campground and campers tracked the droppings into the cabins, the romance faded.
Kidney Pond Campground is well within the wildlife sanctuary zone of the Park and the geese are wild animals that reached Kidney Pond through completely natural means.  They are as welcome in the Park as any other animal, humans included, but their grazing of the un-natural lawn created an unpleasant result for Park campers.  Park staff began experimenting with a variety of devices such as reflective ribbon barriers, cut-out life size photos of canid predators, and decoys to try and deter the geese from feeding on the lawn.  Geese are adaptable, intelligent and very mobile.  Over time, the geese became accustomed and unafraid of the employed deterrents.  In the end, we concluded that the only long term remedy would be to remove the attractive habitat – the mown lawn. 

As you can see in the photo below, this is the Kidney Pond lawn today.  Without regular mowing, the lawn is now a meadow with various wildflowers and likely soon – fireflies.  This is without question a change in the look and feel of the campground.  As anticipated, the geese have been reluctant and unwilling to walk through the higher, heavier grass.  Some people like this change and welcome the wildness it brings to the campground, others absolutely detest the meadow as a scruffy, unkempt lawn.  These differing opinions from knowledgeable and thoughtful people embody the difficult conflicts inherent in wilderness and natural area management.  Take a look at the photo, or better yet, take a drive to Kidney Pond – what’s your opinion?
Kidney Pond Campground - June 21, 2012