Ephrata up in arms about doggie waste in park

By on February 22, 2018

Ephrata Township supervisors are considering changing the Ephrata Township Community Park to a dog-free zone, a direct result of inconsiderate owners.

The 50-acre park has a lake, softball fields, volleyball court, and a number of walking trails.

In the past several months, those walking trails have been defiled by significant amounts of dog waste due to owners not cleaning up after their dogs.

“We’ve had complaints from residents walking on the trails,” said Township Manager Steve Sawyer.

But it isn’t only the trails; the problem has been so widespread that the township road crew was called out to do a clean-up day.

“It is bad,” said Road Foreman Randy Groome, adding that litter bags specifically for dog waste are stationed in the parking lot, and trash cans are situated throughout the park.

“Our park has always been dog friendly, and I believe some parks prohibit dogs,” said Supervisor Chairman Clark Stauffer. “Maybe we can get people to clean up after their dogs, but if not, that might be the only solution.”

The park has signs stating “please clean up after your dog,” Stauffer added.

In recent months, there has been an increasing amount of dog waste throughout much of the park, Groome said.

Rules for dog owners, which can be found in the township office and on the township’s website, say that dogs must be controlled and on a leash at all times.

Dogs are not permitted in the restrooms, pavilion, playground, or sand volleyball court, and owners are required to clean up after their dogs.

“If they’re not leashed, that increases the problem, because, unfortunately, not everyone cleans up after their dogs,” Stauffer said.

Even though dogs are not permitted on the children’s playground, dog waste is also found there, Caldwell said.

“Part of the problem now is the weather,” said Supervisor Tony Haws. “It’s cold out, so people don’t want to bother picking it up and they think it will just go away by spring.”

Although he believes most dog owners are responsible when they come to the park, Stauffer said, the problem has become big enough that action must be taken.

“If it doesn’t change, we’ll have to do something to stop it,” Stauffer said. “With kids running around the park, it’s the township’s responsibility to take more drastic steps.”

No further action was taken at the meeting, as the supervisors will wait another month to see if dog owners can clean up their act.

In another matter, township Engineer Jim Caldwell presented a PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources grant application to the supervisors, along with a detailed map of the area around the Autumn Hills development and the Cocalico Creek.

The Warwick to Ephrata Rail Trail will extend about a half mile through the site, potentially the last leg of the trail.

If the township receives the grant, it would go toward a combination of MS4 compliance, flood plain restoration, and stream enhancement near the trail.

Possible plans include a forest buffer and rock deflectors in the creek.

The rocks would prevent sediment from settling on the creek bottom which would contribute toward a healthier stream and make a better fish habitat, Caldwell said.

Signs would be placed along the trail for visitors’ benefit.

It will cost about $5,100 to compile the grant application, Caldwell said.

The supervisors approved contacting Lori Yiech, with the DCNR, to help with the grant application in order to move forward, with the goal of achieving the matching grant.

The township does not yet own the land in question, but the Autumn Hills developer, Horst and Son, Inc., is working cooperatively with the township in that area, Caldwell said.

In a related matter, the township supervisors approved their Storm Water Management Ordinance Amendment, in compliance with the PA Storm Water Act.

The amendment had been worked on for the past five months, Sawyer said, and now strengthens language addressed to matters of illicit discharge.

The amendment also makes it easier to find specific topics in the ordinance.

The ordinance provides for regulation of non-storm water discharges to the storm drainage system and prohibits illegal connections.

It also establishes legal authority for the township to carry out inspections to ensure compliance.

In other business, the township’s new Emergency Management Coordinator, Paul Miley, gained approval from the supervisors to receive compensation for the training needed for his position.

“The township is grateful to Paul for agreeing to be our coordinator,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer had recommended that Miley be reimbursed for mandatory training and the supervisors agreed to pay Miley $15 an hour for his training sessions.

In another matter, Groome asked that seasonal employee William Zimmerman be hired as a fulltime road crew member.

The department currently has four full-time and two seasonal employees.

Zimmerman has worked for the township as a seasonal employee for the past two years.

He recently acquired a Class A CDL, enabling him to drive more of the township’s equipment.

Currently, the 2018 budget includes five months of seasonal employment for Zimmerman, Sawyer said. The length of seasonal and part-time employment is limited before an employee is eligible for benefits.

“If we don’t keep him on, it would be a huge missed opportunity,” Groome told the supervisors. “When you have somebody like him, it’s kind of rare.”

If the board decides to hire Zimmerman for more hours, an attorney will be contacted to make sure the township is complying with labor laws.

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