Friends of Mingus Works to Improve Local Park

DSC_0005             What started as shock over mistreatment of park animals has morphed into a volunteer group called Friends of Mingus Park, dedicated to the protection of wildlife in the popular Coos Bay park.
Community members Kristi Kelty and Sandy Black founded the group after they began stepping in on behalf of park animals in what they call “teachable moments.”

“When one boy ran over a duck with his bicycle, his grandfather was there. I started talking to the kid, and I was really nice about it,” Black said. “I said, ‘Would you like it if you were a little duck and somebody tried to run over you with a bike?’  He said no and the grandfather stood right there and said, ‘You listen to this lady.’ He was very supporting.”

In September, the group wrote a petition containing suggestions for improvements to the park. The suggestions included bird food dispensers with animal abuse warning signs on them, a wire mesh covering for a drain at one end of the lake where baby birds sometimes get pulled in and an appeal for the lake to be a no fishing zone.

“We requested that our items be considered and put in their master plan for 2013,” Kelty said. “We had a good response back [from the city] and they said our requests were very reasonable.”

While the group has been getting support from the community, it hopes to draw in volunteers at the high school level. Kelty and Black commonly see high school aged people acting aggressively toward the park fowl, whether it be chasing them, throwing rocks or hitting them with sticks. They believe interference from peers would be more effective in conveying the point they wish to get across.

Senior Brittany Campbell said if she saw one of her peers abusing an animal in the park, she would not hesitate to intervene.

“I’d ask them why they thought that was necessary, what was going on, and just let them know that what they’re doing is pointless,” Campbell said.

Black’s interest in the park started with a goose that has since been named Joey. Black noticed the goose was injured, and eventually got a vet to come in and treat her for a chest injury.

Black and Kelty hope to expand Friends of Mingus to the elementary schools by taking Joey in as an example to help teach behavior that will prevent future abuse of park animals.

“I think it’d be awfully fun to do a school program where we could take her [Joey] into the grammar schools… and teach the kids about issues of kindness and violence towards animals and human treatment versus inhumane treatments,” Kelty said.

Campbell said she thinks if older kids set a better example, younger people would learn how to create a more positive atmosphere in the park.

“If we can get the older people to stop with the animal abuse, teenagers, then the younger kids wouldn’t do it as much either as they’re growing up,” Campbell said. “They’ll learn to treat the park better.”

While the group did not know initially how it would be received, it has been pleased with the attitude of the community.

“One person can’t do too much, but you get a group of people together who are passionate about something, you’ve got change,” Kelty said.

The group hopes to build on their successes so far and continue gaining community support.

“We’re going to start small and go slow,” Kelty said. “We want to gain as many people to support what we’re doing as we can.