The hundreds of birds that once graced the World Parrot Refuge in Coombs may be gone, but they won’t be forgotten.
Gloria Fantin and a dozen like-minded supporters have made sure of it.
Earlier this month, Fantin and some of those friends, who created the WPR Rising Wings Memorial Project, unveiled a memorial bench at the small park adjacent to the former Parksville railroad station off the Alberni Highway. Together, the project’s members raised more than $1,500 to have the bench built and installed in the location after it was approved by Parksville’s city council.
Initially conceived as a way to remember the birds that did not survive their time at the centre, Fantin and her group also wanted to honour all those in the area who helped volunteer at the centre or with the birds’ move when the centre was closed in June of 2016.
Nearly 600 birds were removed from the parrot refuge over a two-month period, many to shelters in Nanaimo and Vancouver that have since adopted hundreds of them to families or individuals. Many others, however, were ill or injured at the time of the move, and did not survive.
Fantin also wanted to recognize Anne McDonald, a Vancouver-based avian veterinarian who was instrumental in the care and treatment of the birds, as well as preparing them for transport from the shuttered facility in Coombs.
“During that time, I came over (to Vancouver Island) every week for one or two days, to get the birds ready to move,” said McDonald, owner of the Night Owl Bird Hospital in Vancouver. “I used to come to this park, see? And it was such a nice place to come to.”
McDonald’s enjoyment of the park led to Fantin and her group to request the location for the bench’s placement.
Approximately 120 birds, most being housed at Grey Haven in Vancouver, still need to be adopted, said McDonald.
She added the Rising Wings group also wanted to recognize everyone who worked at the refuge or simply went to visit and help out where they could.
“There were many people who, while they’re peripheral in the whole story, it was very important in their lives,” said McDonald.