JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

A rat problem discovered in Hemming Plaza downtown has people who frequent the area talking.

Evita Pope was eating lunch there Friday with her 1-year-old after visiting the library. She was not aware of the dozens of rodents that have made their home in the park.

"Seeing that rats do carry diseases and bugs and fleas, it's nice to know," Pope said of finding out about the infestation. "I guess we won't be coming down here to eat very often again."

That's not good news for vendors at the park like Rick Moesner and his wife, who run a hot dog stand. They've seen the beady-eyed creatures many times in the past but say the problem has gotten better since the city cut back the bushes and trees.

Moesner knows the rats are still there and blames the people using the park.

"The only way to prevent critters is to keep things clean, and the disarray that the park is in and what the city is trying to do to renovate it, it's in limbo," he said. "Nobody really cleans the park. The city ambassadors have a contract to come in the morning and pick up and all, but the crowds here, everyone just throws their stuff down."

Others say the city needs to do more.

"They should put some traps down, rat poison or something," Paulette Thomas said.

The city did not comment further Friday but did refer to a statement it released Thursday evening that reads, "As an urban park, Hemming Plaza is subject to rodent populations that the city of Jacksonville addresses through pest control practices. Because it is a park destination, we use traps, but in order to guard human safety, cannot use poison. Our Department of Public Works is working to assess and resolve any current rodent issues with increased pest control solutions."