Keeping the Paths Clean at Warner Parks

~ Cleaning up the dog waste from the paths at Warner Parks ~

The Warner Parks were launched in 1927 with the opening of Percy Warner Park. Edwin Warner opened a few years later. Since then they have been one of Nashville’s favorite hiking destinations, with the Warner Park Nature Center celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Dogs are welcome in both parks as long as people follow some basic pet etiquette rules. Dogs MUST be kept on leashes of 6 ft. or less, and poop bags MUST be disposed of properly.

With the advent of poop bags, one would think the parks would be cleaner than ever, but a new and growing problem has made walks on the Warner Park trails sometimes more unpleasant than they used to be. Whereas before, dogs would typically relieve themselves in the grass or the leaves where the feces would decompose fairly quickly, now walkers and joggers often clean up the dog waste with those handy poop bags. The problem is many people leave the bags beside or even in the paths where they slowly deteriorate over time. And as more people come to the parks with their four-legged-friends, more poop bags are left beside the trails.

I recently spoke to Rachel Carter, who is a Naturalist on staff at the Warner Park Nature Center, about the issue.

Rachel told me there is a very big problem with people leaving their dog waste bags along the trails or in the woods in Warner Parks. “These bags do not disintegrate quickly, if at all. Sadly, bags that are tossed onto the side of the trail (and in one recent case up into a tree where it still hangs out of reach) often remain for years, buried under the leaf litter.”

I have experienced the problem firsthand multiple times. On a recent trip to the park, not only was there a green bag of dog waste in my parking spot (a few feet from the trash can next to the parking area), but there was also a black bag of dog waste left almost in the middle of the path that a Good Samaritan moved to the side of the path when I went to get my camera. There were also misc. poop bags in various stages of decay beside the path. When I asked Rachel what people were supposed to do with their pet waste, she responded:

“It is our expectation that dog owners act responsibly by disposing of their dog’s waste bags in proper garbage receptacles placed throughout the park.”

When I inquired if the staff picks up the bags, she replied, “There is no designated person responsible for picking up discarded dog waste bags in the park. Sometimes, kind-hearted and caring citizens pick up other people’s trash as they hike. Other times the Nature Center staff, grounds maintenance staff, or volunteers will pick them up, but again, there is NO designated metro parks employee that cleans these up.”

Rachel offered a couple of solutions to the growing dog waste problem.

“There are trash cans placed throughout the park that are emptied on a routine basis, so if the pet owners can carry the dog waste bags for a short period, they will eventually have a place to properly dispose of them.”

Rachel stated that while trash collectors do enter the premises to empty the trash cans, the garbage collectors have no access to other parts of the park, so adding more cans would not help the problem. She also indicated that donations could help the park hire more staff and/or find other solutions

If you would like to make a donation to Warner Parks you may do so by following this link: https://warnerparks.org/support/donate/

Please keep your dogs on leashes and carry your poop bags to the nearest trash can. After all, there is no magic poop bag fairy to dispose of your dog’s waste for you.

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