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Swans coming back to City Park

January 31, 2002

Swans coming back to City Park



By DAN KULIN
dank@herald-mail.com


More than six months after the last mute swan at Hagerstown's City Park died, the popular white birds are on their way back to the park.

"Within four weeks they'll be on the lake," City Public Works Manager Eric Deike said Wednesday.

The city is buying four mute swans from a Maryland man for a total of $600 to $800, he said.

A swan-welcoming ceremony will be held in the spring or summer after the swans have had a chance to get accustomed to their new home, Deike said.

"The swans are a traditional symbol of the park," said Mayor William M. Breichner. "They have a lot of majesty about them, and give the park a little more character."

The swans are being bought with money people sent to the city for the purchase of the swans.

Since the last park swan died around July 23, the city has received $4,541, and pledges for another $1,120, from 59 people. One contributor lives in Arizona and another in Texas, but most of the donations came from people who live around Hagerstown.

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The contributions will pay for swans, veterinarian bills - the birds will see a veterinarian on their way to the park - and a plaque that will list the names of those who donated to the swan fund, city spokeswoman Karen Giffin said.

Deike said the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has given the city verbal approval to have up to six mute swans at the park.

City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman said there's a chance the city will buy more swans later.

"We know they're popular," Zimmerman said. "They beautify the lake and are an attraction to the park."

City officials had hoped to buy swans earlier, but had to negotiate with DNR to receive a permit for the mute swans.

DNR officials had requested the city buy tundra swans instead of mute swans.

The straight-necked tundra swans are native to North America and typically migrate through Maryland, whereas the curved-neck mute swans are considered an invasive species.

When mute swans eat, they pull the vegetation from the ground instead of grazing on it, which has caused problems for wildlife on Maryland's Eastern Shore, which has a feral population of about 4,000 mute swans.

But the Mayor and City Council decided the park should have mute swans, not tundra swans. The city and DNR negotiated a compromise that places several conditions on the city's purchase of the mute swans.

Deike said the conditions are that the city's park swans all be the same sex, and if not, that the male swans be sterilized. In addition, the swans' wings must be clipped so they cannot fly, a metal identification band must be attached to each swan, and the city must put informational displays about the swans at the park.

DNR requested that the city purchase the swans within Maryland, Deike said.

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