Sandpiper Shep returns to Dorchester perch amid questions & controversy

The new fibreglass Shep with epoxy finish stands almost 8 ft high and weighs nearly 300 lbs

After a three year absence, Shep, the world’s largest semipalmated sandpiper, returned to the village square in Dorchester on Saturday, even though Tantramar town council has not approved installation of the giant statue or allocated money for it.

“I’m calling it The Dirty Bird,” says Bill Steele, who operates the Dorchester Jail Bed & Breakfast, only a stone’s throw from the statue.

“I mean it’s a great tourist draw and that’s good for me, but it’s being done without following proper procedures,” he says. “The village council didn’t commission the artist and never approved the project.”

Steele points out that when Dorchester was amalgamated with Sackville and three rural local service districts, the province drafted a budget that had no money in it for the sandpiper statue and the new town of Tantramar hasn’t approved any for it either.

“The statue was municipal property taken without any permission – repaired – and reinstalled without any public money,” Steele wrote in an earlier Facebook message.

He says he has filed a formal municipal code of conduct complaint against local Councillor Debbie Wiggins-Colwell raising “questions behind how our public asset got in the hands of private citizens with no authority in place.”

Dorchester resident Bill Steele outside his jail bed & breakfast

When reached by telephone, Councillor Wiggins-Colwell said she hadn’t heard about Steele’s formal complaint against her and emphasized that citizens were overwhelmingly behind the effort to get the statue back in the village square.

“I can say this has been an ongoing project for two years and finally Shep is here in a bird-friendly town where tourism is so important,” she said, referring further questions to Kara Becker, a former deputy mayor in the village who has been leading efforts to reinstate the statue.

“There’s a lot of community support,” Becker said during a telephone interview. “We’ve raised enough money to pay for Shep three times over.”

She notes that she appeared before Tantramar council on March 14th asking it to collaborate with citizens so that the statue could be restored in time for this year’s Sandpiper Festival and the return of the migrating shorebirds to the Bay of Fundy in August.

Kara Becker addressing Tantramar council on March 14th

Although Mayor Andrew Black said he understood the economic importance of the statue and the desire to get it back, Becker complains that there was no follow up from the town and when she e-mailed later to ask about citizens donating to the project, she received this response from CAO Jennifer Borne:

At this time Tantramar is not able to accept financial donations or any donation that requires a tax-receipt post-reform as a result of the formation of a new entity.  In addition to this, Tantramar Council has not accepted this particular project.

“So, we just went ahead and put the statue back because it’s so important to us,” Becker says. “It’s pretty much the only thing we have.”

Meanwhile a report from the Canadian Press news agency quotes an e-mailed statement from Mayor Black:

The municipality of Tantramar and its council did not commission this work to be done nor request or approve the installation of this statue on municipally owned land.”

The news agency report, carried by Global news, adds that when Black was asked if the statue would be removed, he replied that the matter won’t be discussed until municipal offices reopen on Tuesday.

“I predict it will be taken down in the next few days,” Bill Steele tells Warktimes.

But Kara Becker warns that protesting citizens would be out in the streets waving placards to defend it.

To read the full report from the Canadian Press, click here.

For an extensive CHMA background report as well as information about Oromocto artist Robin Hanson, who created the $9300 statue of Shep, click here.

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13 Responses to Sandpiper Shep returns to Dorchester perch amid questions & controversy

  1. This is one more example of ‘bikeshedding’. Elected officials should focus on the important stuff (like climate change) but instead waste time on fibreglass birds.

    • Percy Best says:

      Great little video Harold as it certainly relates to the lack of communication and discussion with citizens and councillors here in town with major projects, like the current $5 million flood mitigation project that is about to get underway.

      The plans, as drawn, will effectively reverse the Industrial Park area storm water flow by sending it towards town and into the existing water holding pond adjacent St James Street. That major fact was not revealed by the consultant.

      The project will also enable siltation to totally seal off the outlet at Aboiteau AB-01, behind Russell Metals that discharges into the Tantramar River, within the first year, because the existing flow of flushing storm water will be taken away.

      We will then only have ONE working aboiteau, that being the undersized AB-02 behind Armtec, to evacuate storm water from our downtown area. Methinks this is ‘bikeshedding’ at it’s best when $5 million is being spent on a project that will only worsen our possibility of storm water flooding and so little time is being spent actually having this very expensive project explained to anyone.

      Now back to BIG BIRD!

    • Everything is art and art is everything.

  2. Debbie Bowes says:

    I think most locals realize that this complaint is just the result of a sore loser.

  3. Virgil Hammock says:

    A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Let’s get real. Move the bird to another place. Bigger fish to fry. No, make that birds not fish.

  4. Fred Harrison says:

    Sandpiper Shep has driven the council Koo Koo . There is no turning back from Koo Koo .

    • Christian Corbet says:

      Is this a case of citizens overriding council? Well, perhaps and so be it as council refuses to listen and rather enjoys dictating.

  5. Peter says:

    A tempest in a teapot! Just another example of casuistry employed to bury historic realities. The construction and seating of the now iconic Shep was instituted under the authority of the Village of Dorchester ‘s Village Council, long before Premier Higg’s municipality act reconfigured the landscape of New Brunswick, bolstered by its removal of the new entities’ powers to self-govern in full (such as barring citizens from asking questions at Council meetings!)

    When Shep was unseated for concerns about its decay, the monument was still within the authority of the Village Council. And, I would daresay, was the idea to replace it. Little did the villagers expect that they would be left bereft of seeing that aspiration realized by the political maneuvering of their provincial government. Let’s imagine, for example, that the Sackville water tower were to be tumbled by a tornado. Would the township of Tantramar be forbidden from proposing a replacement of the crucial infrastructure? Yet the once independent town had provided one half the cost of the $2,430,242 project.

    The point is that the refurbished Shep has a right to be put back on her throne, and I for one, would be happy to help to see that happen, as I suspect a number of others in the area would be so inclined. Not a donation! A restoration! Just the way it was and should be. Down with casuistry!

  6. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people says:

    People, people people ! What are you thinking? :”Shep” the sandpiper is more than bronze, wood or fiberglass. Shep didn’t even star in the 1965 movie THE SANDPIPER, about a cross-cultural; marriage. Shep isn’t even about Jessica Glasner’s timeless World War Two story the Voyage of the Sandpiper.’ Shep in fact represents three decades of the whole village of Dorchester striving to protect and promote their unique place in history. Shep is indeed the result of hard work, many meetings, a school auditorium filled with everyone, and of every age from Rock Port to Breau Creek. A total commitment from a tri cultural village mostly shunned by Sackville and even recorded in the former Town of Sackville’s Town meetings. The impetus and the work of involved citizens kept councilors and their mayor darting back forth like the Sandpipers at Johnson’s Mills . Then one day the tide came in for the Village.. It is a certain irony that the Sandpiper Festival was launched by controversy ranching from a cartoon of the Mayor promoting a “leviathan piper:” to be erected in the square to international rage that the famous Sandpiper Stew would include actual sandpipers. Finishing off by assuring everyone that there also was no Mud from Johnson’s Mills in the mud pie desert.. Today due to no small part transmitted through the internet the image of Shep Dorchester is part of the Fundy Biosphere Reserve includes the local local school as a UNESCO sponsored educational site helping maintain the world class foot print that Doug Howe wrote for the Reader digest. In the year 2017 Federal and provincial governments chose Dorchester to celebrate the 150th Anniversary. At a historical heritage fair where five Dorchester students won the staggering amount of $700 dollars for their Bi-centennial essays. If if you can erect a bronze Cattail statute. I think SHEP even If just fiberglass deserves a place in local history. The Dorchester D-Day Dodgers who when serving on village council meetings around a couple of card tables all the while debating with great dissonance to prove who was right, but how to protect the truth. I know by the 1970’s my Dad and others were wondering if winning was worth the price they paid.. Duty and self reliance coupled with courage and loyalty now substituted by actions that involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. This is for another day_ EDUCATION.

    • Lynsey says:

      Totally off topic, but I just saw your name. I’m assuming you are the teacher Mr. Feindel. 🙂 I was a student of yours in the late ’90s in Dorchester and just wanted to say thank you for everything you did while I was a student. I loved your classes!

  7. Wayne Feindek Puppet of the people says:

    Lynsey you are most welcome. Those days were the best of times because students like yourself were very self reliant and had solid footing to leap forward into the world. Junior high high was the best fun ever. Take care

  8. IndieMediaEastcoast Canada says:

    Terrific to see the good people of Dorchester take the initiative and instal their bird. Well done. I am fan of this worthwhile artwork [no plaques about climate change needed]. There is definitely money to cover costs for installation – lots and lots of money right? Remember what Mayor Shawn Mesheau was quoted as saying:
    ““We are setting the foundation for the generations to come. How exciting is that!” declared mayoralty candidate Shawn Mesheau. “Our population will be 9,100 and our tax base $1 billion.” Maybe we should get this little quote made in to fridge magnets to distribute throughout Tantramarshire.

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