By Philip Haldiman
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Residents of the Peoria community Desert Harbor are well aware of this timeless joke.
And they know the correct answer is, indeed, to get to the other side.
But in their neighborhood it is geese, not chickens.
And the road is 91st Avenue, between Thunderbird and Greenway roads.
The area has become so busy with foot traffic of the webbed variety, the homeowners association installed signs warning drivers to slow down.
Four signs have been installed — two on the east side and two on the west side of 91st avenues, roughly between Mauna Loa and Watson avenues, areas of high goose traffic.
Ken Bus, vice president of the Desert Harbor HOA, said the board worked with the city of Peoria’s traffic department and took input from residents, many of whom advocated protecting the geese.
Some geese have been wounded or killed while crossing, but Mr. Bus said, since the signs went up, the geese have gotten across the street at a 100% safety ratio.
“I feel that we have to try to warn motorists of the possible hazard posed by these large, slow-moving animals,” Mr. Bus said.
The signs are located on private property and not within the city’s right-of-way, but Peoria staff consulted on their locations to ensure they would not interfere with traffic conditions or otherwise confuse motorists as regulatory signs.
Assistant City Traffic Engineer Brandon Forrey said the request for goose crossing signs was unusual. He said he had denied the request for goose warning signs many times over the years, but the HOA pressed the city on the issue after a number of geese were hit by cars over a short period of time.
“We have received requests for ‘deaf/blind child area’ signs from a small number of residents. We previously had not allowed these signs, but due to requests, we developed a policy to permit very limited use of these signs for children under 13 years of age. We have only one such installation in Peoria at this time,” Mr. Forrey said. “Finally, we see unauthorized ‘slow children at play’ signs in the right-of-way occasionally. These signs are never used by Peoria and provide no helpful information as motorists should expect to see children on any residential street.”
Not everybody is happy about the geese in their community, and not all of them approve of the signs. Some say the animals are a nuisance, messy, noisy and not welcome.
Resident Paul Bundy has lived lakeside just over a year and said he never expected to have an issue with the geese after moving into Desert Harbor.
He said his house, which backs up to the lake, has a boat dock, and was vacant for a year before he bought it. During that time geese nested on the east side of his lot, he said.
His real estate agent removed the nest after the goslings hatched, and he assumed he wouldn’t have a problem moving forward.
But once they have nested, he said, apparently they tend to come back to the location of the nest.
Mr. Bundy, 75, is also the full-time caretaker of his wife, also 75, who has autoimmune disease Parkinson’s. He said there hasn’t been a problem for a few months, but he added the birds carry disease and expects problems when it cools down and breeding season starts.
“During the breeding period last year, the geese were in our pool and on our back patio pecking at the glass slider and on the roof. They crap all along the water line, which is gravel, from the water’s edge to several feet back and on the dock. My grandchildren shouldn’t have to wade through piles of goose crap to kayak,” he said. “I have no problems with ducks, but geese are aggressive. They will challenge you.”
Desert Harbor, built in the 1980s with more than 1,000 homes, is a mainly residential community anchored by a 46-acre lake and made up of 17 subdivisions, according to the community’s website. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted for residents, and there are ramps for motor boating.
The community was built on a farm with a pond that was expanded, which all along has been a habitat for ducks and other waterfowl over the years, according to the website.
Canada Geese live, breed and raise their broods of goslings in the area. Mr. Bus said they spend the night on the lake, on the east side of 91st Avenue, safe from predators like coyotes, dogs and other animals.
On the other side of 91st Avenue mesquite trees produce and drop seed pods filled with beans the geese eat.
Mr. Bus said each season when the mesquite pods are ripe and drop onto the ground, the geese cross over in groups of 10 to 20 several times a day. The lake provides a perfect habitat for geese and the mesquite trees are an abundant source of food, he said.
“Instead of flying over the street, the geese slowly waddle across four lanes of traffic, causing great amusement to some drivers and great annoyance to others,” Mr. Bus said. “Some motorists lay on their horns thinking that the geese will be frightened enough to turn around or to hurry across the street. Not so. No amount of honking will move them any faster.”
Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, email@example.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.