How Many Piles of Poop in a Mile?: The Forest Park Hot Spot

How Many Piles of Poop in a Mile? Forest Park Hot Spot, June 19-26, 2017

Portland, OR: “It’s a forest in my backyard.”

One visitor told us this on a cool June morning during the Forest Park Hot Spot in Portland, Oregon. She wasn’t exaggerating. Forest Park is the largest urban park in the United States. Just steps away from sidewalks, paved roads and, yes, lots of backyards, Forest Park is 5,172 acres of northwest forest in the middle of Portland. (By comparison, Central Park in New York City is 843 acres.) With 80 miles of wooded trails and forest roads, it’s a haven for daily walkers, weekend hikers, runners, dog owners and cyclists who cruise along gravel roads.

Not surprisingly, Forest Park is intensively loved, to the tune of nearly half a million visits each year. With this love, however, comes damage to the park’s ecosystem. Litter, abandoned dog waste, dogs off-leash, invasive species, and undesignated trails all threaten the health of Forest Park.

But these damages aren’t completely unavoidable! The Forest Park Hot Spot week was just the beginning of Portland Parks and Recreation’s efforts to harness the love of Forest Park to help preserve it. Throughout the week, the Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainers led workshops for Portland Parks rangers, staff and volunteers, focusing on how Leave No Trace can help protect this unique urban forest for generations to come. The trainers and park rangers worked side by side in parks throughout the city, sharing Leave No Trace education with visitors and handing out more than 75 dog leashes.

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Rangers are introducing Leave No Trace into the park system by focusing on the impacts of pet waste and dogs off-leash. Dogs love Forest Park just as much as people do and Portland’s four-legged friends are welcome in the park. Their waste, however, is not. To raise awareness of the amount of dog waste in Forest Park, rangers flagged each pile of dog poop and abandoned poop bags along ¾ mile of the popular Leif Erikson Trail. The final tally? Fifty-two piles in less than a mile! Dog waste can contain millions of fecal coliform bacteria, along with giardia, parvovirus, hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms – not the kind of wildlife that park visitors come to enjoy! Picking up and properly disposing of dog waste is a simple way visitors can avoid contaminating the park’s soil and water.

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Making sure dogs are leashed are another way park visitors can protect Forest Park. Even well-behaved dogs who aren’t on a leash can cause wildlife to run from food sources, flee their habitat, and even abandon their young. Also, it’s easy for dog-lovers to forget that a dog off-leash can really intimidate other park visitors! While some visitors claim their dogs enjoy the trails more off-leash, Forest Park Ranger Dave Barrios reminds visitors that even on a leash, dogs are just happy to be in the park with their favorite people!

Enjoy Your World. Leave No Trace. 

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, Klean Kanteen, and Smartwool.