SOUTH PORTLAND — The prevalence of dog poop in Hinckley Park has prompted city officials to take bolder action because polite signs and gentle prodding have fallen short.

Park Ranger April Bolstridge planted 300 small orange flags wherever she saw dog feces in the melting snow and mud in one of the city’s most popular open spaces. She started near the main entrance off Highland Avenue and ran out of flags about 300 yards into the 40-acre park.

“It’s a very visual statement to highlight the issue for people,” Bolstridge said Thursday. “We’re just trying to educate people. Hopefully, they’ll pay a little more attention to what their dogs are doing and pick up after them.”

Bolstridge said she decided to try a new approach because talking about the problem with park visitors hasn’t diminished the number of little land mines. Moreover, she was aware that “April Stools Day,” a community effort to clean rubbish and dog waste from parks, is fast approaching and will soon reveal several months of hidden feces. She placed the flags Wednesday, knowing that a major rainstorm is expected Friday.

“I wanted to get in there before the rain melts all the snow because it’s much harder to tell (the poop) apart from the mud,” Bolstridge said.

Flags mark dog poop left by owners at Hinckley Park in South Portland on Thursday. A park ranger quickly ran out of the 300 flags she’d brought. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Bolstridge got the idea from a fellow park ranger in Colorado, where flagging feces had succeeded in raising public awareness. Beyond the obvious aesthetic drawbacks of such a large concentration of dog waste, it poses a serious environmental hazard to water resources in the park, including Hinckley Pond and Old Ice Pond, and a health threat to all park users, especially children, she said.


“People think nature is going to take care of it and wash it away,” Bolstridge said. “But when you’re dealing with this much volume, that’s really just not the case.”

The feces buildup at Hinckley Park seems to surpass other popular dog-walking areas in the city, such as Bug Light Park or Mill Creek Park, likely because it’s wooded and feels more remote. One sign pleads, “Please be a responsible pet owner and do you part.” Another sign gently warns visitors to “clean up after your dog,” and notes Chapter 3, Section 3-28 of city ordinances.

Technically, however, the municipal law bans dog owners from even letting their pets poop on public property. It’s illegal “to place, deposit, or permit to be deposited any dog excrement” on any street, park, beach or storm drain in the city. Violators may be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for each subsequent offense.

A sign asks pet owners to pick up after their pets at Hinckley Park in South Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Bolstridge said some people who saw her placing the flags asked why she wasn’t picking up the waste. She said the city doesn’t have the resources to pay municipal staff to pick up dog feces day after day.

“We don’t want to enable people to leave it behind,” Bolstridge said. “It really falls on dog owners to be responsible and respectful of others who use the park.”

Heather Hodgkins said she’s glad the parks department is making a bit of a stink about the dog waste problem. The South Portland resident was at Hinckley Park on Thursday evening with Finnigan, her 7-year-old golden doodle.


“It’s awful,” Hodgkins said, stepping past melting piles of feces near the park’s entrance. “I pick up after my dog. The people who don’t ruin it for everyone else.”

A bag dispenser near the entrance to the park was empty Thursday evening.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

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