Despite Neighboring Community’s Rat Concerns, Pumpkins Are Welcome In Belmont

Photo: Pumpkin … or problem?

Nothing signals fall than the appearance of the winter squash known as the pumpkin.

From mid-September to Thanksgiving, the humble pumpkin is a star; in the kitchen – pies, breads, spices and seeds – and especially for its aesthetic value: what doesn’t evoke the season than a slew of pumpkins on the stoop or a jack-o-lantern by the front door on Halloween? Nothing comes close.

But this year, the pumpkin is getting a cold shoulder in one of Belmont’s neighboring communities and it doesn’t have anything to do with cancel culture.

In Watertown, town officials are advising residents to chuck the real thing and replace it with plastic or ceramic orbs when decorating their stoops and gardens. The reason: rats. Well, rats and other vermin that have been sweeping through the town as if it was 14th century Hamelin.

Many homeowners have complained over the past year of an increase in rodents in a community has been a hot spot of commercial and town construction projects that disrupt them in their underground habitats. Shorter winters have allowed rat couples to have more babies and there’s the problem.

According to Larry Ramdin, Watertown’s public health director, the friendly urging from the town – it is not in anyway a mandate – is an attempt to remove a ready source of food for the local rodent population and that includes the orange squash.

“We have observed rat problems last year around this time. We are being proactive,” Ramdin told the Boston Globe.

“Did you know that putting pumpkins and other edible decorations outside your home can provide food sources for rodents?” Watertown health officials wrote in a Facebook post. “This year, please consider plastic decorations to help prevent rodents on your property and in Watertown.”

Belmont has also had its fair share of ratty issues in the recent past. A few year’s back, Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood became a rodent housing complex with numerous underground burrows and the streets around Grove Street Playground have seen a sizable uptick in rats from overburdened trash containers and a problematic house on a nearby street.

But rest assured, the town’s Health Department is happy to tell residents they can keep the real thing this fall.

“At the moment we do not have reason for concern about Halloween pumpkins or any related outdoor activities,” said Wesley Chin, the Health Department’s director.

Controlling Trash And Rats: Carry-In/Carry-Out Trial Set For Joey’s Park, Town Field

Photo: Goodbye, rat magnet.

There were two photos projected on the wide screen at the Board of Selectmen’s Room during the board’s meeting on Monday, March 26.

On the left of the screen was a collection of garbage loaded up on a broken water fountain including what appeared to be a dirty diaper. The right side showed what appeared to be a birthday party but with all the paper plates and napkins, balloons, containers and food left on the benches and tables as if the people were suddenly taken in the Rapture.

The scenes presented to the board of recent conditions at Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood was just the spark to light the fuse to launch Selectman Mark Paolillo into orbit.

“That’s disgusting! How do people do this? It’s so disrespectful!” said Paolillo in an extended animated response, sending a message to the community that he and the town have had enough of those who litter and run.

“Those of you at home who did this; it’s outrageous!” said Paolillo.

The evidence of residents and possibly visitors from surrounding communities behaving badly by illegal dumping trash in the parks is prompting the town to reintroduce a program removing all trash barrels in town’s eight parks and playground to be replaced with a program where if you bring something into the parks, you’ll have to take the resulting waste out yourself.

“While there is no silver bullet that will end illegal dumping, this [policy] will be a long-term benefit,” said Jay Marcotte, Belmont Public Works director, as he presented the plan to the board.

While many residents were not in favor of the program known as Carry-In/Carry-Out when it was first introduced a year ago, the proposed policy is now also being used as a weapon to attack another issue facing residents: rats.

The rodent infestation has begun to plague certain parks and neighborhoods as the rats have discovered a ready source of food, coming from compost piles, pet food left outdoors, birdseed dispensers and household trash. And one of the easiest is the waste and food scraps left in and around the many barrels located in each park.

Currently, the town empties barrels Monday, Wednesday and Friday and whenever they are called, said Marcotte. But just by having trash containers creates a problem. “If you build it, they will come. And if you have trash barrels, the trash will come. It’s just the nature of what humans do, even if its overflowing,” said Marcotte.

While some residents contend the problem can be solved with more barrel pickups, Marcotte believes the best long-term approach is a conscious and sustained effort of re-educating the public.

A pilot program at Joey’s Park and Town Field between Beech and Waverley streets beginning in the next few months. The policy of taking away the trash is gaining in popularity locally and around the country. Nearby Walden Pond in Concord, the Boston Harbour Islands, the National Park System and the municipalities of Gloucester, Beverly, Reading, and Needham have joined the trend.

The DPW is working with the Board of Health to bring its expertise in educating the public. 

Board of Health member Dr. David Alper said while the board had reservations on a complete ban of receptacles, “Let’s try it. It certainly doesn’t cost us anything to hit the two big parks.”

“It comes back to education. You wouldn’t think you’d have to educate the public to pick up after themselves but you do,” said Alper. He also said the DPW will work with Winn Brook Elementary students to create signs and message to be placed around the parks to reinforce the policy.

“And hopefully the byproduct will be the rats will look elsewhere for food,” said Alper.

Joey’s Park Reopening Tentatively Set For April 9

Photo: Joey’s Park to reopen mid-April.

With the second attempt to rid the rats at Joey’s Park about to conclude, the Belmont Department of Public Works has set a date when the popular playground in the town’s Winn Brook neighborhood will reopen.

The treatment of the playground for a persistent rat infestation by Assurance Pest Control is expected to end this week, Jay Marcotte, DPW director stated in a memo to Town Administrator Patrice Garvin.

Marcotte said that Assurance anticipates that the playground can reopen within a week to 10 days after the final application of a non-toxic irritant known as Rat-Out Gel. The same treatment was attempted in October but it failed to expel the rodents who live in tunnels under the ground. 

“[W]e are looking at a tentative April 9thopening,” wrote Marcotte.

Breaking: Joey’s Park Closed For Month Due To Returning Rodents

Photo: A snapshot of a social media site concerning trash at Joey’s Park.

They’re back!

After a failed attempt to eradicate vermin from their home at Joey’s Park, the Belmont Board of Health and the Highway Division of the Department of Public Works have today, Monday, Feb. 26, closed the popular Winn Brook neighborhood playground for a second time as it attempts to send the rats packing.

The town has hired Assurance Pest Solutions to treat the reemergence of large rat burrows with a deterrent solution dubbed Rat-Out Gel, made of garlic oil and white pepper. The plan is for the irritant to force the rodents into traps at baiting stations in the park. 

While it’s being treated and monitored for the next three to four weeks, the playground will be closed to the public.

This is the second attempt by the town to root out the rats at the park located adjacent to the Winn Brook School. 

The town is urging the public to assist it in keeping the play area clean of food scraps and trash which attract the rodents. In recent weeks, a social media site geared toward parents in Belmont focused on the general level of uncleanliness at the park, including photos of food containers, general garbage, and a soiled diaper.

For more information, contact the Belmont DPW at 617-993-2680 or the Belmont Health Department at 617-993-2720.

Oh, Rats! Community Meeting On Rodent Problem March 15

Photo: Rat eating – what else? – cheese.

Whether at Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood, at Town Field near Waverley Square and from the area nearby Fresh Pond, rats have become an increased nuisance for homeowners and the public using town resources throughout Belmont.

With sightings on the upswing and residents reporting a growing number of rat complaints, the Belmont Health Department, the Department of Public Works and the Buono Pest Control Co. is holding a public meeting “Controlling the Rat – A Community Effort” on Thursday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium, 455 Concord Ave.

They’re Here To Stay: Controlling Rats with Education, Money and Garlic

Photo: Joey’s Park, ground zero for rat removal.

Take equal parts garlic and white pepper then add a dash of paprika and mix.

Sounds like an excellent dry marinade you can rub on chicken or steak before grilling to give the meat a bit of a punch.

In fact, the mixture is an excellent organic rat repellant. That’s correct: rat repellant. 

That spicy recipe is currently being pushed into the rodent lairs under Joey’s Park in the Winn Brook neighborhood, according to Jay Marcotte, the town’s Department of Public Works director as he came to update the Belmont Board of Selectmen of his department’s battle with the rodents.

The popular playground adjacent to the Winn Brook Elementary School has been closed for the past fortnight after workers discovered the vermin living in and around the play structure.

Currently, the town is seeking “a safe and swift resolution to the issue,” said Wesley Chin, Belmont’s Health Department director,

Marcotte said he decided to approve a non-chemical approach – at the cost of $2,300 – as “the safest possible” method as the playground is very popular with children and families from around town. The natural repellant that comes in a gel is intended to irritate the rats’ skin which will hopefully have them scurry into one of the 40 traps laid out in the park.

The park will stay closed for another three weeks when the firm applying the solution believes the job will be complete, said Marcotte.

Even if this method does the job in the Winn Brook neighborhood, Belmont will not be as fortunate as the Town of Hamlin which found a pied piper to drive off the pests – and unfortunately a large segment of the German town’s school-aged population – as the rodents have been seen congregating near the port-a-potties at Town Field, on Beech Street, and along Pleasant Street, said Chin.

“They’re not going away,” said Dr. David Alper of the town’s Health Board, advising the board to create a new line item in the upcoming fiscal 2018 budget to tackle the rat issue in the future.

“Short money for long-term gain,” said Alper.

The town will expand its current rat removal campaign in all of the town’s parks which will include removing trash cans from those public spaces to rid the rodents of their food source, said Marcotte.

But the most effective method of controlling the rodent issue is information and data, including calling the Health Department when rats are found so the town can track their migration.

“The best tool is educating the public,” said Alper.