DOWNTOWN PORTLAND, OR
CLEAN & SAFE DISTRICT

'Poopmaster' battles mall crow droppings

Technically, the device is called a Tennant M20 Integrated Rider Sweeper-Scrubber. But this is Portland, so a stodgy name just wouldn't do. The Poopmaster is now being used to scrub the sidewalks of Fifth and Sixth Avenues between Southwest Oak and Madiso


Jan 5, 2017
Written by Jeff Zurschmeide, Portland Tribune

If you have been downtown lately, you probably noticed a surprising number of bird droppings on the sidewalks.

The reason is that Portland plays host to a large population of crows every winter, and cleaning up after them is no small task.

"A few years ago, the issue of crow droppings came to the forefront of our minds. We couldn't really keep up with it," says Jeri Jenkins, operations manager for Portland Mall Management Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to security and maintenance of the Portland Transit Mall.

"We would have them spot-cleaned where the crows roost," Jenkins says. "But the pressure-washing happens in the middle of the night, and in the morning it looked like nobody but the crows had done anything. So we started looking at sidewalk scrubbers that could be used during the day, without the residual spray from the pressure washers."

That's when Portland Mall Management discovered the Poopmaster 6000.

Technically, the device is called a Tennant M20 Integrated Rider Sweeper-Scrubber. But this is Portland, so a stodgy name just wouldn't do. The Poopmaster is now being used to scrub the sidewalks of Fifth and Sixth Avenues between Southwest Oak and Madison streets.

"It's about 10 blocks," Jenkins says, "but that makes 40 block frontages that need to be cleaned."

The Poopmaster can be seen in action on weekdays from about 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., weather permitting. Because the machine uses only fresh water to clean the pavement, it cannot be used in freezing weather. The Poopmaster uses no detergents or cleaning solutions of any kind.

"The goal is to cover each block about twice a week," Jenkins says.

Because of the high cost of buying and maintaining the Poopmaster, Portland Mall Management had to get creative to make it work.

"They're the Mercedes of sidewalk scrubbers," Jenkins says. "They cost about $60,000 to buy, and another $60,000 to maintain. So we talked to Sunbelt Rentals, and they bought one. We rent it for the crow months, from right around Thanksgiving until the birds start thinning out."

The city of Portland arranges for sidewalks in the downtown area to be pressure-washed regularly. On average, any given block is cleaned once every four to six weeks.

When the city doesn't need the Poopmaster, it's available for private rental.

"It's meeting our needs," Jenkins says, "but it would also be great if the crows would roost somewhere else."