Sackville Waterfowl Park celebrated as environmental gem on its 30th anniversary

Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau (L), MLA Megan Mitton and Mayor John Higham spoke during 30th anniversary celebrations of the Sackville Waterfowl Park

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

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.

Mt. A. President Jean-Paul Boudreau

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.”

Sandy Burnett, member of the  Waterfowl Park Advisory Committee

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.

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6 Responses to Sackville Waterfowl Park celebrated as environmental gem on its 30th anniversary

  1. Kelly Alder says:

    Wow, MtA made it possible leasing land to the town it really has no use to do anything with. Maybe they should leave it to the town like the generosity of Mr. Lund. That would be a selfless deed on their part, but somehow doubt they will.

    • Would be nice if people didn't leap to anger so quickly says:

      Maybe Bruce can clarify this, but it’s my understanding that the lease is for something like $1. They had also originally planned to give them the land but that town council was afraid to take on the liability because townsfolk thought kids might drown in it, so that’s why it’s a lease at all.

      Would be nice if people didn’t leap to anger so quickly.

      Note from Bruce Wark: Yes, the town tells me that the lease is for $1 per year.

      • Rima Azar says:

        In an earlier article on the Warktimes (April 7, 2018), it was written: “At their meeting last Tuesday, councillors were told about the expiry of the town’s $1 per-year lease on land in the Sackville Waterfowl Park.Town manager Jamie Burke told council that Mount Allison University, which owns about half the land in the park, is proposing a new 15-year lease agreement with the town.He said the town is doing a routine check with its insurance company on the liability provisions in the lease and unless the company raises a red flag, council will be asked to approve it on Monday. A smiling Councillor Evans said he had a question.“Did you try to improve the terms of the amount that we’re paying?” Evans asked.
        Burke’s reply drew laughter.“We haven’t started those negotiations yet,” he said.

        Does this mean the new 15-year lease agreement has the same conditions as the earlier one ($1)? If so (and even if it is not), I say: thank you to Mount Allison University.

        To “Would be nice if people didn’t leap to anger so quickly”, I feel like saying the following: You are right in general. However, had our Town’s affairs been truly transparent, the public (like Mr. Alder) would have been better informed, if they misunderstood.

        Comment from Bruce Wark: Thanks for pointing to my earlier reporting of the lease with Mt. A. I had forgotten about it. I’m not sure I understand why you are saying that the Town’s affairs aren’t truly transparent. In this case, the record is pretty clear that the lease is $1 per yr. I confirmed that today with an e-mail to town staff that they responded to within a few minutes. Evans was clearly joking about improving the terms of the lease — to less than $1.

      • Kelly Alder says:

        Thanks for the comment whoever you are. Point is mta is up on a pedestal and if they had to pay their fair share of property tax like I have to for my two businesses and personal property the town would be much better off financially. Town worried about kids drowning? So if this happens is mta liable? Please clarify for me whoever you are.

  2. Rima Azar says:

    “The Mighty Earth Warriors”— bravo to this environmental group of Marshview school students for their winning project but I cannot help not to make a sarcastic comment here :): it is OK to use a war-related term because it is all about Holy Mother Earth and not about our old-fashioned, apparently too violent, veterans.

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