Feeding wildlife is no longer allowed at Waller Park.
On Thursday, Santa Barbara County Parks installed several signs throughout the popular 144-acre facility indicating visitors it is illegal to feed animals there.
The interpretive signs are posted in English and Spanish. They both provide information why feeding is being banned.
Throughout the day, dozens of people lined the park’s two ponds, throwing out bread, crackers, cereal and other food to the many ducks, geese and other birds that live around the water.
“We come here and feed the ducks,” said Gary Byrne. “It’s something that (his friend Frank) enjoys doing. We take a walk around the lake. We showed up today with our bread and now we’re told we can’t do it.”
Bryne said he takes his 96-year-old friend Frank to the park at least four days a week. The two Santa Maria area residents came with a few loaves of bread to feed to the birds.
“I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid and it’s been something that has always been done, but now they’re putting up signs that say you can’t,” said Byrne.
According to County Parks, which operates Waller Park, the restriction of feeding animals at the park has actually been a longtime ordinance.
While the ordinance not been enforced in the past, County Parks will begin to do so because it felt the time was right in an effort to provide better safety for both park visitors and wildlife.
Signs indicate feeding animals is harmful and interferes with the natural healthy balance of the population of the habitat.
Other reasons include aggression in animals rises when they become dependent on humans, the risk of disease increase due to overcrowding, water pollution increases, it interrupts with natural migration, accidents on nearby roads and the airport can occur due to too many birds in the area and that human food is unnatural for animals.
Byrne wasn’t happy to hear about the ordinance, but understood that something needed to be done at the park.
“People overfeed them and dump in bags of cereal in the pond and on Saturdays all you have to do is come down here and you’ll see, it just becomes covered with too much,” said Byrne. “Then there is the smell and I’ve talked to the rangers about it and they’re just trying to come up with some kind of solution and I guess this is it.”
Since generations of area residents have fed the birds over many decades, it will take a concerted effort to stop the activity.
County Parks said right now it will start an educational campaign to promote awareness.
However, the signs posted in Waller Park do warn that feeding animals is illegal and anyone caught do it is subject to a fine.