There are many people trying to make a difference in their community, but one young woman in Ketchikan is taking on a particularly messy problem. Here’s a story on one person’s efforts to help clean up downtown.

“We have a lot of serious issues facing this community – dwindling budgets, illegal drugs, downtown parking. But one ever-present problem is doggie doo on our downtown streets.”

That’s John Fecalman, Excrement Management Specialist for the City of Ketchikan. Fecalman says the city has been working hard to enforce pet clean-up laws, but says it is a difficult problem to tackle when the perpetrator is long gone before a citation can be issued. Fecalman says the city tries to do what it can – such as provide dog doo bags in dispensers along the waterfront and at parks – but that and other efforts often go unnoticed.

Helga Fartzenpooter

Helga Fartzenpooter

One person is trying to do something about it.

“I’m Helga Fartzenpooter, president, founder and sole member of P.O.O.P. – People Opposing Obnoxious Piles.”

Fartzenpooter combs the streets looking for dog droppings, placing brightly colored flags into each pile. She says the purpose is to draw attention to the problem as well as warn pedestrians where not to step. The flags have sayings on them such as “Thank P.O.O.P. for this warning,” “P.O.O.P. protected,” and “Don’t tread on me.” Fartzenpooter says she’s tried to recruit others to the cause, but so far has been unsuccessful.

“Most people just don’t appreciate P.O.O.P. They support the idea…I think…but they just don’t want to get down and dirty and do something about it,” she said.

News TileFartzenpooter almost has a sixth sense or radar when it comes to spotting piles. Some are located at the edges of benches or under them, while others are in muddy areas. I spent an afternoon with her observing her work.

“Oh! This is an especially messy one. What were you feeding your dog?” … “Hey! Hey you! I hope you plan on cleaning that up …Thank you!”

Fartzenpooter places P.O.O.P warning flags.

Fartzenpooter places P.O.O.P warning flags.

Fartzenpooter had already placed at least 30 warning flags when Police Sergeant Eric Branson approached us.

“Excuse me ma’am. I’ll have to ask you to stop doing that,” Branson said.

“Doing what?” replied Fartzenpooter.

“I’m sorry ma’am but you can’t place objects in the street. It’s a citable offence,” he said.

“Are you kidding me?” she asked.

“No ma’am,” Branson replied.

“Well that’s…Kot! Stuhl! Fiedelbogen!” she exclaimed.  (Note: these are German terms for feces and fiddlesticks).

“Yes, I can see that ma’am, but you still can’t put little flags in it. That would be littering. You’ll need to remove them,” Branson said.

A group of runners benefits from P.O.O.P.'s efforts.

A group of runners benefits from P.O.O.P.’s efforts.

Looking dejected and disappointed, Fartzenpooter reluctantly removed the flags from her day’s work. But she says she’s not giving up.

“This is not the end of P.O.O.P.!”

Happy April Fools Day!

Thank you to Megan Petersen, Kyle G. Bailey and City Mayor Lew Williams III for helping with this story. Though this story was done in fun, Mayor Williams says this is a real problem in the city and asks dog owners to please clean up after their pets.