In the early spring of 1993, warm breezes began to melt the towering snow banks on the Eastern Promenade - revealing not only a carpet of grass but pile after unpleasant pile of dog doo. Diane Demos, the owner of a black golden retriever-poodle mix named Lucy, was appalled.
"It's disgusting," Demos was quoted in a Portland Press Herald story at the time. "Even as a dog owner I was pretty grossed out by it."
So the Munjoy Hill resident put up posters throughout the neighborhood with a call to duty for dog owners to help clean up the Prom. She dubbed the event April Stools Day, a clever pun suggested by her boyfriend and future husband, Jeff.
The first April Stools Day brought out dozens of volunteer poop scoopers to clear the Eastern Prom of the malodorous landmines. And the rest, as they say, is history. April Stools Day turned into a yearly event, spreading to other parks throughout the city and even to Belfast, Maine.
Saturday, April 21 will mark the 20th annual April Stools Day. Demos, who is now Diane Davison, is proud of the milestone as well as the awareness the event has helped create. These days, with more people picking up after their pets, the task on April Stools Day isn't quite so daunting. Although there is still plenty of poop to scoop, much of the focus has turned to picking up litter and debris scattered throughout the Eastern Prom.
"Compliance with the poop scoop ordinance has come a long way in 20 years," Davison says. "Through education, peer pressure among dog owners and ongoing cleanup efforts, responsible dog ownership is now more consistent - resulting in a cleaner park."
In its eighth year, Kathy Palmer, owner of the local Fetch Pet Supply, offered to help Davison with April Stools Day. Past events have included the dog mascot Scoop, lemonade and brownie stands (get it?) and contests for the most pounds of waste collected. And Davison and Palmer came up with the "Golden Turd," a gilded facsimile to be hidden for a prize. The pair still jokingly call each other the Duchess of Doodie and the Princess of Poop.
Davison's love for the Prom has since spurred her to found Friends of the Eastern Promenade, which now sponsors April Stools Day. Davison has served as president of the nonprofit organization since its inception in 2006, and has been the leading force behind various park projects, including the Fort Allen and Loring Memorial Trails, the summer concerts in Fort Allen Park and the current Fort Allen Park Rehabilitation Project.
And while her beloved dog Lucy has since departed, Davison still walks the Eastern Prom daily with her current pack, Russell and Alice.
"We are truly fortunate to be able to share the enjoyment of our trails, beaches and grassy slopes here on the Eastern Promenade, both with our furry friends and with so many members of the community and beyond," Davison says.
The 20th annual April Stools Day will be held from 9 to noon rain or shine Saturday, April 21, in conjunction with Litter Pickup Day. Volunteers can choose to pick up litter, dog droppings or both. Gloves, trash bags and litter tongs will be provided.
The event is sponsored by Friends of the Eastern Promenade and Portland's locally owned Fetch Pet Supply. The traditional Golden Turd will again be hidden in each April Stools Day location, with the lucky finder winning a gift certificate to Fetch.
This year's Portland locations include the Eastern Promenade, Fort Sumner Park, Reiche Park and Baxter Woods as well as Fort Foster and Seapoint/Crescent Beach in Kittery. On the Eastern Promenade, volunteers can report to one of five stations: near the top of Cutter Street; the Cleeves Monument at Congress Street; at the playground & ballfields; Loring Memorial Circle; and East End Beach.