Dog day after strewn! Garbage, charcoal in Prospect Park makes pet lovers livid

Prospect Park’s official cleanup crew did a fairly good job with the aftermath of the Memorial Day weekend, but volunteers from FIDO, the dog-owners’ group, still filled five big garbage bags on Monday morning.
Community Newspaper Group / Stephen Brown

Dog lovers were barking mad on Tuesday morning as they arrived in Prospect Park to find their beloved meadow peppered with chicken legs and charcoal — though park officials say the post-Memorial-Day litter could have been much worse.

The swaths of rubbish on the green meadows were nowhere to be found — park employees had managed to gather much of the trash and pile it up for collection, but a small group of activists from FIDO, a dog-advocacy group, still managed to fill up at least six bags of trash at the peninsula near the northwestern portion of Prospect Park lake.

“There is no enforcement [of park regulations],” said Angelo Izzi, who was in the park with his Newfound-retriever pooch. “All this charcoal — it’s killing the trees.”

But Prospect Park Alliance president Tupper Thomas sought to put the weekend’s revelry in perspective, and said that she had been in the area on Memorial Day doling out trashbags and spreading the word about proper charcoal disposal.

“We’ve had much worse over the years,” said Thomas, who will be retiring at the end of the year. “In the early years, we had random barbecuing with no enforcement and no designated areas. This was a great [improvement].”

Thomas also touted the Alliance’s public awareness campaign about proper charcoal disposal.

But she did concede that the park did not have many enforcement agents at its disposal on Memorial Day.

“On Memorial Day enforcement is tough — beaches are open — so the amount of actual tickets being given is really small,” Thomas said.

And it was the consequences of the lack of enforcement — though at least six park workers were doing outreach on Monday — that had the president of the dog group FIDO practically panting in anger.

FIDO President Tony Chiappelloni was furious at all the garbage he found, including barbecue remnants in the lake itself. Charcoal dumped into the waterway can be toxic for dogs.
Community Newspaper Group / Stephen Brown

Tony Chiappelloni was especially upset because the peninsula — which is a dog run — is ostensibly off-limits for grilling, though the chicken bones and charcoal-piles proved that many park-goers had ignored the small signs posted on the edge of the field.

“Chicken bones splinter [in a dog’s stomach],” said Chiappelloni while picking up garbage. “Charcoal in the lake — that’s petroleum — it’s toxic!

“And more trash means more rats, and they carry diseases,” he added.

As another dog-lover, Frances Brodeur, collected garbage, she lamented that some people just seem to have no respect for Brooklyn’s most-cherished natural area.

“If the trash is in a bag, why not drag it out?” she asked. “You don’t have to leave it next to a trash can so that animals can tear it open overnight.”

But as frustrated as Brodeur and her fellow dog-walkers were, Thomas expressed satisfaction in the aftermath the barbecue bonanza.

“Years ago I never would have come into the park after Memorial Day — I had a black lab that would eat anything!” Thomas said. “My understanding is it looks pretty good now.”

Anticipating the occasional call for an all-out barbecue-ban, Prospect Park’s chief added that grilling is a ritual that all park-goers enjoy, no matter what their neighborhood.

“Barbecuing is a part of everyone’s culture,” she said. “The summertime comes and you see people from every country in the world out there doing different types of barbecues — it’s a family activity and its part of why everyone loves the park.”

Prospect Park groundkeeper Dwayne Anderson worked all day on Monday cleaning up after everyone else’s fun.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

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