Sackville celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Waterfowl Park on Saturday with speeches, music, a short play, birthday cake and hotdogs.
“Having the Waterfowl Park in Sackville has shaped my life,” MLA Megan Mitton told the crowd that had gathered for the event near the park entrance off Mallard Drive.
Mitton mentioned that she once worked for the Tantramar Wetlands Centre, across the highway from the Waterfowl Park.
“Even though I’m not a biologist, I do know quite a bit about the value of wetlands,” she said. “It’s really exciting to see how our community has embraced having the Sackville Waterfowl Park right in the centre and to see it still growing.”
She remembered that when she was a child, a duck was the park’s mascot while the benches downtown still have duck heads as arm rests and ducks adorn some town crosswalks.
“It’s amazing how integrated into our lives and into our community the Waterfowl Park is,” Mitton added. “It’s such a gem for our town and our region.”
Marshview’s environmental warriors
Mayor John Higham said Mitton’s speech reminded him of how Sackville values the environment and the ecology that goes with it.
The mayor noted the long history of the Waterfowl Park, then mentioned that only last week, “The Mighty Earth Warriors” environmental group at Marshview Middle School won a national competition sponsored by a non-profit organization called Learning for a Sustainable Future.
Among other things, Marshview was recognized for its campaign against single-use plastics and for its success in getting a 3-stream waste system in Sackville’s schools.
Higham suggested the Marshview students’ concern for the environment is linked to respect for the landscape, respect fostered by the natural beauty of the area including its iconic Waterfowl Park.
Adam Campbell of Ducks Unlimited told the crowd that he became a wetland biologist partly because of the Waterfowl Park.
“My first summer job was as a Waterfowl Park interpretative guide,” he said. “My eyes were opened to the variety of species that call wetlands home.”
Campbell said he ended up falling in love with his future wife who also worked as a guide.
“This may be a bit of a stretch, but my youngest daughter Anna’s middle name is actually Teal,” he said to laughter. “I fought for it to be her first name, but I don’t always get my way.”
Campbell said Ducks Unlimited plans to replace and upgrade the water control structure in the park in the next few years and will continue to invest in the project indefinitely.
Mount Allison’s new President Jean-Paul Boudreau reminded the audience that the university made the Waterfowl Park possible. (The university leases land it owns in the southern portion of the park to the town for $1 per year.)
Boudreau added that the park is an important part of life for Mt. A. students who spend a lot of time there.
“In fact, when they leave, it’s one of the things they cite as something they will miss about Sackville,” Boudreau said, adding that the university also uses the park as part of its experiential learning programs.
“What better place than a waterfowl park to get into the marsh, to get into the water, dig in see what kinds of critters you can find, what kinds of ducks you can spot and birds,” he said.
Boudreau said the park contributes to the health and well being of the community both physically and mentally.
“I’m also a psychologist and I care about the relationship between mind, body and environment so I think we’ve got a real gem here in our backyard.”
Later, Sandy Burnett recalled how he, Al Smith and Paul Bogaard pushed for a wetlands park that had originally been suggested by the aptly named Jim Sackville, a design consultant from Sussex the town had commissioned to draft a strategic plan.
Burnett recalled that the town was skeptical of the idea.
He said that more than 30 years later the park has become a symbol for the town, which nobody foresaw at the time.
“No, I don’t think we did at first, but it became evident very quickly,” Burnett says. “Within about two or three years of the opening of the park, it had won a national environmental award and was recognized by the Governor General’s office and suddenly we realized that what we had spawned was going in directions that we hadn’t really considered at all.”
Burnett says he has complicated feelings now that the park has turned 30. For one thing, he feels immense gratitude toward all the people who worked on the project over many years.
“The other thing that gives me pleasure every time that I visit the park is to see other people enjoying it and realize that what we started out thinking would be a good demonstration conservation project has turned into a significant part of the life of the whole town.”
To read original plans for the Waterfowl Park, click here.