Do we have a problem in Aberdare Park?
Aberdare Park dates from the Victorian ages and still has its original boating lake – and yes you can sail around it on either a swan or a dragon-shaped paddleboat, why not grab a drink from the lakeside café – pick up some feed for the ducks and geese too and enjoy a moment of calm before exploring this hidden gem.
That’s how Rhondda Cynon Taf Council describes Aberdare Park and it is a great place for families to enjoy a day out without spending too much money with play areas the Splash Pad boating lake and a café.
It is ironic that the park was the idea of the local board of health that wanted a pleasant place for the inhabitants of Aberdare, in 1894 Aberdare Urban District Council took over and maintained the park now Rhondda Cynon Taff Council are responsible for maintaining the park.
In June last year, residents informed AberdareOnline that when they were in the splash pad with their children there were several people smoking and they were also concerned about the volume of goose droppings around the park. After a visit to the park, it was noted that the only no smoking sign on the splash pad was written on a piece of paper, it was also then that the extent of goose excrement became apparent.
AberdareOnline then wrote to the Parks Department drawing their attention to management and public safety at the park as the council has overall control of the park and its amenities within the park. The splash pad is operated by Friends of Aberdare Park, who campaigned to have the splash pad a replacement for the paddling pool, Friends of Aberdare Park is a charity that relies on volunteers and donations to keep the splash pad operating after the council cut the funding for all paddling pools in RCT.
The Aberdare Splash Pad is the only one run by a charity other councils pay for the supervision and running costs of splash pads in their areas, the council is happy to fully fund the Pontypridd Lido but not Aberdare Splash Pad the council operates a double standards approach, a principle which is unfairly applied by this council.
Friends of Aberdare Park did respond to AberdareOnline through the council, it is a big commitment running the Splash Pad with just volunteers and I know as I have been informed they are struggling so if there is anyone who can help just contact Friends of Aberdare Park.
RCT Council has put a lot of money into informing dog owners to pick up their dog waste or face a fine the council says it is anti-social behaviour if you don’t pick up your dog waste, waste from dogs caries infections, a Legal Notice is displayed at the park entrance informing the public of Public Spaces Protection Order in place and a fixed penalty of £100 fine.
The council advises that dog waste is unsightly and messy and can have serious health implications for children and adults alike, including toxocariasis. Dog faeces may contain several types of microorganisms potentially pathogenic for humans. Bacteria that are pathogens for the intestinal tract and cause diarrhoea include Campylobacter, Salmonella, Yersinia and E. coli
Do we have a council that takes animal waste seriously?
6 months ago AberdareOnline first contacted the RCT Council Parks Department about the volume of goose waste that seemed to overwhelm Aberdare Park especially the footpaths that surround the lake the café area entrance to the splash pad and the play areas, since my first approach to the council and talking to residents who all said just how bad the geese droppings were.
Families who visit the park expect a safe clean area for their children to play that includes the playgrounds and the amenities within the play areas after all Aberdare Park has a Green Flag award for a safe clean environment.
AberdareOnline questioned the council about how they were cleaning up the geese’ waste throughout the park. The council advised they were sweeping the waste and using a power washer to clean the areas, having then sent the council photographs showing how bad this was as it didn’t clean up the waste just spread it around and into the boating lake that was already having its share of bird waste. At this point, we explained to the council that The Health and Safety Executive HSE advised that power washing was not advisable as it spread particles of bacteria into the air.
So lets explain the problem and how it has expanded, the public like wildlife and visitors to the park are encouraged to feed the ducks and geese, bird food is sold in the café and the public also feed bread to the ducks and geese, the money from the sale of bird food is used to help keep the splash pad open.
The sale of bird food encourages more waterfowl to visit the park we are informed by the council that there are over 150 Canada geese visiting the park and other species of geese.
An adult Canada goose poops about 2 pounds, per bird, per day estimates suggest a goose will poop several times an hour and up to 20 times a day. So, a flock of just 20 to 30 Canada geese can make a mess in a short period of time.
As we have explained the council demands dog owners to immediately clean up dog waste or face a fine, after numerous emails to a number of departments within the council, we are now advised that the council now clean the paths with a mini sweeper that cleans around the lake just twice a week and they use a leaf blower to clean the paths just around the lake.
We don’t believe a leaf blower is viable it will not clean up wet poop and a leaf blower will distribute the dry poop toxic bacteria into the air spreading the contamination over a wider area. We don’t believe just cleaning the paths around the lake twice a week is acceptable as the Hidden Dangers of Goose Droppings are explained here.
The only warning notice of the danger of goose droppings is on a Public Notice by the café.
The council accepts they have a big problem in the park but they still allow the sale of bird food as a Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Public Notice advises to keep our ducks & geese healthy, the notice also advises, Diseases: To many birds means to many droppings which is a high health risk.
So what are the risks involved, this is something AberdareOnline asked the council to supply AberdareOnline with the risk assessment and method statements for cleaning up the goose waste as this health risk has been prevalent for years AberdareOnline the response below from the legal department at RCT Council in October 2023.
Copies of Risk Assessments, COSHH details, and Method Statements pertaining to the cleaning of goose excrement from paths, grassed areas, the boating lake, as well as the operation and maintenance of boats and the splash pad
No recorded information is held of risk assessments or method statements for removing goose excrement. This is something that is currently being considered.
Boat maintenance is undertaken prior to the start of the season.
Testing of the splash pad water for bacteria has been undertaken, all of which have returned a clear result.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council Legal Department know they have a legal duty before work starts to assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees and risks to the health and safety of persons not in your employment and the public to which they are exposed while they are at work.
AberdareOnline over the past 6 months has requested under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 copies of Risk Assessments and Method Statements for cleaning footpaths, grassed areas, Splash Pad, boats kids’ playground equipment. To date, the RCT Council has not supplied the information. AberdareOnline has repeatedly requested copies of water test results for the splash pad all we have received is the water has been tested and it is clear. No test results were supplied, that applies to the boating lake where we asked the same question.
As there were so many geese droppings around the café area the times we visited the park the café had a 5-star rating but now I cannot see it listed only the Food Hygiene Rating for Aquadare Coffee Cabin. AberdareOnline was informed by the council that the Public Health Department was looking into our complaints and the department would we assumed report back to the Parks Department, we requested under FOI a copy of the Public Health Department report, but to date, we have not received a copy from the Public Health Department, we did point out to the council: Preventing or controlling ill health from animal contact at visitor attractions before they enter the café.
AberdareOnline has sent copies of all our emails and responses from the council to The Information Commissioner’s Office the public should be made aware of what is happening in Aberdare Park, we had a response after writing to Rhondda Cynon Taf Chief Executive a copy of his response below. AberdareOnline also contacted Natural Resources Wales under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 requesting copies of emails to and from RCT Council we had response part of the responses we received are below.
Aberdare Park has a Green Flag award we all want a safe place for our children to play we are fortunate to have such wonderful places in Cynon Valley together with Aberdare Country Park, AberdareOnline believes the council should fully fund the Splash Pad just as it dose for the Pontypridd Lido.
A response from the Chief Executive
I write in response to your email of 7th October and apologise for the delay in responding whilst I gathered the relevant detail from officers.
In relation to your concerns regarding the cleaning of the park and equipment, I have summarised the cleaning methods below:-
• The paths around the lake are blown every morning with a leaf blower to keep them clear.
• Mini road sweeper cleans and scrubs around the lake twice a week. The waste from the sweeper is recycled in dedicated recycling bays in our depot.
• The area around the café and the lake is jet washed weekly by the park rangers.
This is done outside of peak hours to reduce aerosol.
These methods are undertaken in line with the laid down risk assessments required for the activities.
Discussions have taken place with NRW and RSPB both of whom are unable to assist with the wild fowl issues currently. We will be persisting with our discussions with both organisations to look for a way forward.
The cafeteria is inspected annually by RCT Food Hygiene Officers. The areas inspected are highlighted below:-
• food handling, preparation and storage;
• cleanliness of premises and equipment and if it is in good repair;
• management controls that include staff training, temp records, etc.
Outdoor seating and eating areas do not form part of this inspection, however if evidence of issues were found within the cafeteria area relating to the geese or any other wild animal, these would be investigated, and relevant action taken.
We are currently examining the issue relating to the sale of bird food. When visitors do not have an option to purchase such feed, they will instead bring household waste such as bread items. This causes more of an issue with the mess created and continues to encourage the birds to the park.
The Council does support each of the paddling pools in RCT as well as the Aberdare
Splashpad. A contribution is made to assist with running costs. All other costs are met through the utilisation of grants available to all voluntary organisations across RCT.
As is the case with many other voluntary organisations they will also use alternative means to generate funds. As far as the Council is aware the Friends of Aberdare Park have no issues in maintaining the facility for its intended use.
The Splashpad water was independently tested for bacteria in July and August and both test results were completely clear of any harmful pathogens.
Some signage regarding smoking in the park has been vandalised and removed, new signage has been ordered and will be displayed once received. The monitoring of visitors smoking in the park is undertaken by enforcement officers and PCSO’s.
Park staff do not undertake this role. We are not aware of any issues relating to people smoking in these areas and would ask that if you do view this when visiting that you inform a staff member who will inform enforcement officers.
The cleaning of playground equipment and safety surfaces is undertaken by the Play
Team. In view of your observations, I have asked them to undertake more regular inspections of the area and to report on the incidence of mess within the area in order that a more effective plan can be implemented if required.
The Parks Team are currently working with ROSPA to devise and implement an action plan regarding the water safety around the lake with specific emphasis on the wildfowl within the park. The initial findings of this work have identified the park as a low-risk area.
Water levels in the lake are periodically inspected and maintained. The water to the lake is fed from a diversion from the falls area and from natural run-off. Water quality checks are carried out annually by Welsh Water although we are not made aware of the results.
In 2022, three water fountains were installed in the lake to circulate the water and improve oxygen levels. The floating pump systems provide much-needed aeration but also provides a relaxing and visual appeal to the lake. The improved water quality they provide also benefits the fish in our lake. Lake Shadow, (a natural look dye designed for large bodies of water to control algae and submerged aquatic weed growth), is added to the lake water monthly, this coloured water filters light disrupting the process of photosynthesis resulting in submerged weeds and algae being unable to grow.
The water which is drained from the lake is discharged into the storm drains.
There will be some investment within the park in the coming months looking at the signage and fencing off areas to try to reduce the impact of the wildfowl within the park. I can assure you that the Council will continue to work with a number of teams from different departments as well as external organisations to reduce the issues you have highlighted and thank you for bringing these matters to our attention.
AberdareOnline requested copies of correspondences from RCTC to NRW and from NRW to RCTC: Below is just parts of the response from Natural Resources Wales much of the replies were redacted
Hi no sorry these have been passed over by word of mouth .I have checked with the rangers, and they spoke to the one lady and wouldn’t give any details and said she won’t come here again. I lot of the elderly people have refused to walk this area and stayed away .it’s very frustrating for them. the rangers have been told to log incidents in their daily reports. But the public won’t do this. I am back in on the 7th Aug and will check back on earlier forms regards
Hi Guys , I have attached two drone photos of the location of the splashpad , the café and the lake what we need to do at the moment is to remove the eggs when laid ,we do not intend to kill anything , as its going to be a long process but we need to start somewhere , the water samples at the moment are normal, but to reduce any risks we need to act , as for the mess the geese dropping pose, contain pathogenic bacteria ,campylobacter, chlamydia,crytosposporidium , Escherichia coli, giardia , listeria and salmonella , infections can cause severs nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain , severe cases result in intestinal bleeding ,kidney failure, septic shock , geese also carry parasites like cryptosporidium.
We have had a lady who came in with her grandchildren and one caught an infection from the splashpad area , but a lot of people will go straight to the doctors or the hospital and we don’t get to hear the outcome ,
We have sent in photos previously showing the geese by the splashpad and there are problems around the shop area as well ,where during the summer period people dine outside , we are considering fencing off part of the shop area to alleviate some of the problem ,
As for health problems we are not worried about the health of dogs because they are on the lead and the owners can chose to take them elsewhere , but there are a great deal of children that have to negotiate the path area to access the splashpad I have witness a child slipping on poo , but to eliminate any potential hazard we do try to clean the area first thing in the day , but we are not always successful .
I can understand the financial implications are not an excuse to provide a licence , but as a working authority with budget constraints there is not a lot of money available to keep working on the geese problem, and health and safety is a paramount issue facing us at the moment , we have done a number of things like fencing off the bandstand area which as worked , we have tried cordoning off areas , but the public do not adhere to these signs as we cant patrol all the time , last week with the amount of Canadian geese that flew in as well as the resident geese we counted over 200 wild geese , there is no intentions to disrupt the moorhens or other bird life in the park and there are a number of elderly people who use the park every day and the mess is a constant worry to their health and safety , regards