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Baxter City Council denies petition for geese crossing sign

Northern Lakes Senior Living residents petition notes effort to save wildlife, stating vehicles are often exceeding the speed limit along the stretch of Excelsior Road.

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A parent keeps a watchful eye over a group of fluffy goslings Sunday, May 31, where the Paul Bunyan State Trail crosses over Excelsior Road in Baxter. Families of geese are often seen along the roadside in Baxter as they return to nesting spots. The young feed themselves. Their diet is almost entirely plant material. They can't fly out of the way of vehicles as it will be about two months after hatching before goslings try their first flight. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Northern Lakes Senior Living on Excelsior Road in Baxter petitioned the city for geese crossing signs on a city street bordered by water that can pit slow walking wildlife and quick moving vehicles together.

The geese, with parents raising goslings not yet able to fly, often cross that section of the city street. Recently a goose was struck and killed on Excelsior Road just east of the Cypress Drive roundabout. Last year, a number of geese were struck and killed on a short section of the street between the roundabout and Brainerd. The geese cross the road foraging for food and are a frequent sight along the roadside.

The stretch of city street with Whiskey Creek and wetlands on either side has long been habitat for wildlife. In recent years, the street was reconstructed in Baxter with curves flattened and a roundabout added. The adult parents can be seen waiting for the last offspring to cross the street.

In a May 20 letter to the city, Len Brown and about 50 residents of Northern Lakes Senior Living requested the signs as a way to preserve wildlife on a stretch of street they report vehicles are often exceeding the speed limit.

“As residents of Excelsior Road, East of the Paul Bunyan Trail bridge, we petition the city of Baxter to preserve local wildlife by installing signage to protect Canada geese who nest yearly in this area. After the goslings hatch, they frequently cross Excelsior Road between water holes to the north and south, often in the path of vehicles speeding after exiting the new round-about near the trail bridge,” the letter stated. “Westbound vehicles speed in that location as well. Residents living in the apartments facing Excelsior Road can attest to the fact that many cars are diving over the speed limit.

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“In 2018, two adult geese were killed and in 2019 four adult geese met their death on Excelsior Road. Now that there are two hatched families of geese in 2020, at the same location, we beseech your compassion to protect our wildlife friends. After all, this was their natural habitat before we made it ours.

“If the city will install signage, reading “Caution Geese Crossing” on each side of the road between the water holes and enforce the speed limit, we feel the problem will be alleviated and goose lives will be preserved, including many human walkers as well.”

Trevor Walter, city public works director and highway engineer, provided background to the geese crossing petition at the council session. Walter said the topic was before the city’s utilities commission, which voted in favor of denying the petition.

Walter said the commission took the petition seriously as they considered its merits related to the city’s sign ordinance police established about seven years ago. Walter noted those types of signs are not recognized by the state’s legal sign manual. The association from Northern Lakes Senior Living was provided a copy along with reasons for the recommended denial.

When the city’s sign policy was put in place, the recommendation was to remove signs not needed and about 100 signs across the city were taken down, which Walter said also helped the city’s budget.

Walter reiterated the utilities commission took the request seriously, but he also noted wildlife signs could go up all over the city. Walter questioned how they could control where the animals cross at any given time.

The council accepted the commission recommendations without discussion after listening to Walter’s report and voted unanimously to deny the petition.

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Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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