Metro

‘Defecating publicly on the Common is not okay and illegal,’ Salem councilor reminds public

A jogger on Salem Common in 2011.
John Blanding/Globe Staff/File
A jogger on Salem Common in 2011.

Salem Councilor Christine W. Madore called it the “Most Bizarre Email I’ve ever received” as an elected official serving the North Shore community — and it’s not hard to see why.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, Madore said a concerned constituent recently sent her an e-mail claiming that parents on two occasions had allegedly let their children defecate near the playground on Salem Common and didn’t clean it up.

“Once was by the fence and today it was by one of the trees near the basketball court. Both times their parents were present and just didn’t do anything,” read the e-mail, which Madore shared verbatim in her Facebook post. “I get that things happen with little ones, but to just leave it is wrong and unsanitary for everyone.”

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The person who wrote the e-mail, whose name Madore withheld for privacy reasons, asked whether there was anything the city could do to prevent this from happening in the future, such as putting up signs, installing a portable toilet in the park, or providing “poop pickup” bags.

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“Like I said,” the e-mail read, “I’m not sure what if anything can be done but wanted to bring it to someone’s attention.”

In response, a clearly baffled Madore took to social media to remind park users that it’s against the law to defecate in the public park, whether you’re a dog or a person.

“Hi everyone, defecating publicly on the Common is not okay and illegal, no matter if you’re 2 or 4 legged, 3 or 30 years old,” she wrote. “Sorry to have to post but this definitely takes the prize of Most Bizarre Email I’ve ever received as your ward councilor.”

Madore recommended that “if you see something, say something” and provided her followers with the phone number to the Salem Police Department.

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According to the Salem News, the playground on the Common was renovated in 2010, after a community group spent more than three years raising money and support for the project.

The open-concept playground is located on Salem’s 8-acre public park downtown, which has been a common area since the 17th century, according to the city’s website.

Madore’s Facebook post about the waste left at the park elicited more than 50 comments from people this week, with many agreeing that installing portable toilets nearby would be a good idea — one that would benefit both parents of young children, as well as tourists visiting the city.

“I have definitely heard from my parent friends that some sort of toilet on the Common would be amazing,” one person wrote.

A second person said that the Salem Common Neighborhood Association, which bills itself as the city’s oldest neighborhood association, provides “poop bags” in a box that is close to the playground area, presumably for pet waste.

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In a follow-up e-mail to the Globe about the “undesirable behavior,” Madore said the recent reports about what happened on the Common are far from the norm.

“Residents and visitors enjoy our beautiful historic Common daily and it is a true refuge for those looking for some peace and quiet from our busy downtown,” she said. “Rather than passing on my constituent’s email to City staff for assistance, I shared it publicly to nip the behavior ‘in the butt.’ ”

This isn’t the first time that Madore has dealt with complaints about waste being left in the city’s public parks.

In March, the Ward 2 councilor said on Facebook that in light of “spikes in complaints regarding unleashed dogs and owners not picking up after their dogs,” police would be increasing patrols in certain parks, including the Common.

“Leash and pickup laws do apply in our public parks,” she wrote. “Thanks everyone for your cooperation!”

Madore said she also has other “dirty butts” in mind at the city’s park: the cigarette kind.

“Just last month I submitted a Council order to ban smoking on the Common,” she told the Globe. “Cigarette butts have been the number one cause of litter not just on this public open space, but all of our parks. I’m certain this issue is not unique to Salem.”

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.