MARINETTE — After much discussion and input from the city’s animal control and code enforcement officer on Tuesday, the Marinette Parks & Recreation Committee made a recommendation that dogs be banned from all city parks. 

The problem of dog owners not picking up after their pets in city parks has been a topic of discussion in the city’s committees for some time, and it was brought to the Parks & Recreation Committee by Ward 1 Alderman Ken Keller. At the committee’s May 14 meeting, members decided they wanted input from Animal Control & Code Enforcement Officer Mary Cherry with the Marinette Police Department before taking any action on the topic.

Cherry appeared before the committee on Tuesday, and said that while the city currently has waste collection bag stands at City Park, Red Arrow Park and Menekaunee Harbor Park with signage and an ordinance on the books that allows for fines up to $439, the problem is catching offenders in the act. 

“To tell you the truth, I have never seen anybody not pick up their dog’s feces,” she said. “I’m not there all the time, I have to be visually there to see an owner with their dog, their dog distribute the feces and their owner not pick it up to cite them.” 

Cherry said the city could put up signs outside parks warning about the ordinance and the need to pick up after dogs, “but for me to sit there for hours and hours and hours and wait around, I just don’t have enough time for that.” She added that she is also in charge of property code enforcement issues, which requires her to write letters and citations for things such as lack of lawn care and unregistered vehicles. 

Cherry suggested that the city ban dogs from parks entirely, like the cities of Menominee and Green Bay have. 

Keller said he had personally witnessed owners not picking up after their dogs, especially at Red Arrow Park, but he did not want to see them restricted from parks entirely. He suggested the city ban dogs specifically from playground areas and put up signage outside parks warning visitors about the existing ordinance. 

“Even with the signs up, who’s going to police it?” asked committee chairperson and Alderperson-at-large Dorothy Kowalski.

Ward 7 Alderman Rick Polzin agreed. “The problem I see is if you start cutting it up, enforcement is difficult to nonexistent,” he said. “I don’t think we should have dogs in the park.” 

“It’s a lot easier to police someone having a dog in there than it is whether they’re not picking up,” Kowalski added. “We’ve gone round and round and round about this issue, and we haven’t gotten anywhere.” 

Polzin moved that dogs be banned from all city parks, which was seconded by Ward 6 Alderman Peter Noppenberg. Mayor Steve Genisot asked if the motion could include walking trails in town, but Polzin said he would restrict his motion to parks for the time being. 

“You’re going to just move the problem,” Genisot said. 

“I’d like to bring it to Council,” Polzin said. “I think we need a discussion. I think we need to show people that we’re serious.” 

“What we’re doing now isn’t working,” Kowalski said. “Restricting park access makes it easier to enforce. Is it not a fun thing to do for the people who do follow the rules? Sure, but we have to do something.” 

 The recommendation to ban dogs from city parks was approved with a vote of 4 to 1, with Polzin, Kowalski, Noppenberg and Ward 4 Alderman Dave Anderson in favor and Keller against. The matter will go to the City Council for discussion and final approval.