It's the time of year again: birds are chirping, bugs are buzzing and volunteers are taking to the Juneau trails with gloves, scoopers and plastic bags, removing a winter's worth of weathered dog doo.
"We've been doing it as long as 10 years, but the difference now is that we are making it what we hope will be a huge educational campaign, and bringing in a lot of other groups," said Chava Lee, executive director of the Gastineau Humane Society.
The society's "Scoop the Poop" campaign kicked off in early May. Along with handing out baggies to citizens, groups of volunteers have combed popular trails in an effort to "de-poop" the paths.
"There's so many puns on this we feel like a bunch of 11-year-old boys," Lee said.
Earlier, the cleanup groups hit the Outer Point and Airport Dike trails. On Saturday, volunteers met at Brotherhood Bridge. Cleanups are scheduled for Cope Park on June 7 and Sandy Beach on June 14. All cleanups begin at 9 a.m.
"You can bring your own scoop if you have a favorite one, or we provided scoops as well," said Amy Green, administrative officer with the Gastineau Humane Society.
Lee said the cleanups are important to help make sure dogs will continue to be allowed on city trails.
"It's not funny, it's serious business. Dog owners need to be responsible for our dogs," Lee said. "If we are not, there's a whole group of people who would like to see trails shut down to dogs."
Health concerns for dogs and people also drive the cleanup. Parvo, worms and other canine diseases can be passed from dog to dog through feces, Lee said. Bacteria also can pollute water bodies where people like to swim, she said. Twin Lakes is closed to dogs during summer months for exactly that reason, according to the city's Parks and Recreation Department. No water-quality testing is done at Sandy Beach, but Lee said the area is a hot spot for unscooped feces.
Though some dog owners may not know it, allowing a dog to defecate on public or private property without picking it up is illegal in Juneau. Police can slap nonscooping dog owners with fines of up to $100 or court appearances, depending on the number of offenses. In the business district in downtown Juneau, dogs have to be on leashes, and letting them poop without scooping can result in additional fines, according to Hoyt Stepp, Juneau's animal control director.
Lee said about a dozen volunteers have been showing up for the cleanups, thanks to the recruiting efforts of groups and businesses such as the Wee Fishie Shoppe, the Juneau Kennel Club and Douglas Island Veterinary Clinic.
"You have to admit that's pretty good," Lee said. "How many times can you get people to come out and volunteer to pick up someone else's dog poop?"
Lee also complimented the city for supplying free pickup bags at area trailheads.
"There are plenty of other communities that just don't do that," she said.
After the cleanup at Sandy Beach, the humane society will host a "Poop Has Been Scooped Extravaganza" where volunteers, identified by their "Bag It" buttons, will get free hot dogs and drinks.
"Of course, we'll wash our hands before we eat," said Green.
To report a trail or other public area in need of a scoop, call 789-6997.
Julia O'Malley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.