Royal swans may soon escape 'Swantanamo Bay'
Ottawa's royal swans may soon have a winter shelter to replace the cramped quarters of an aging facility critics have dubbed "Swantanamo Bay."
The swans, descendants of six pairs of mute swans presented to the city in 1967 by the Queen to mark Canada's centennial, spend their summers on the Rideau River but winter at a building on Leitrim Road that animal rights activists have decried as inadequate.
"The facility is more like an oven than an acceptable location, and at times during the summer when they had to be indoors that was too difficult for them," Coun. Rick Chiarelli said.
City staff have chosen a potential home for the swans at the Nepean Equestrian Park, but according to the plan, council would have to approve the $375,000 needed to build a proper shelter.
The proposal calls for a 1,600-square-foot facility that would include a place for the birds to swim.
Chiarelli said the equestrian park isn't an ideal location, but if the city can partner with private-sector sponsors to help pay some of the costs they could come up with a good plan.
Chiarelli said he's asked city staff to also investigate the possibility of locating some of the swans off the Rideau River and in the area around Andrew Hayden Park, where Canada geese have been a problem.
"It may be easier to attract sponsors to do something that helps put the swans to work," Chiarelli said. "Swans are extremely good at getting geese to move on."
Queen to visit Wednesday
The city needs to come up with a plan before the winter, since the lease on the Leitrim Road land — owned by the National Capital Commission — expires in November.
City staff will present the plan to council Tuesday, a day before Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrive in Ottawa as part of a nine-day tour of Canada.
Clarence Dungey of the Save Ottawa's Swans campaign said the timing is appropriate for a solution to the swans' shelter problem.
"I'm reasonably sure that she'll want to see the swans or the city will want to bring her to the river to see them in their habitat," Dungey said.
Chiarelli said he doubts the Queen will notice the city's work to find the swans a better home but said her gift still needs to be honoured.
"We're the nation's capital, this is a royal gift, and there should be a way to treat the animals more appropriately," Chiarelli said.