Help bird mender find new location
Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune
Monday, May 31, 2004
A group of students at Riverside Elementary School in the Marathon County town of Ringle really has gotten the ball rolling in efforts to bring Marge Gibson's bird rehabilitation center from Antigo farther south into central Wisconsin.
The fourth-graders have held a bake sale and other benefits to help fund the Raptor Education Group Inc., and they entered the world of politics by enlisting state Sen. Russ Decker to propose a special license plate that would benefit REGI.
Now they're going further, trying to get Gov. Jim Doyle and federal legislators involved.
More importantly, they and Gibson have gotten the attention of Marathon County officials, who are putting together a proposal that could bring Gibson to the county's south side.
Gibson has been running her bird hospital and rehab clinic out of her rural Antigo home for years. But the operation has outgrown her property, and it's not in a central location.
With animals coming in from all over Wisconsin - all over the Midwest, in fact - finding a site with easy access to all areas is imperative.
Gibson thinks the Marathon County-Portage County region would be perfect. And Ed Hammer, Marathon County's director of conservation, planning and zoning, agrees.
When he learned of the effort by students and ideas of Gibson, he went to Antigo and checked out the rehab center.
He returned impressed with Gibson's commitment. One visit to the pole barn in which injured bald eagles swoop overhead while regaining confidence flying will do that to a person.
Hammer was convinced the county should help - with one proviso.
Gibson is a devoted and caring animal activist who has committed much of her adult life to mending ospreys, owls and other raptors.
She is not, however, Bill Gates. Her business strategy consists of picking up injured animals from anyone who calls and nursing them back to health while begging for donations of everything from cash to dead mice - a favorite food of her educational owl, Bumpy.
"She needs a business plan," Hammer said. "I think she'd be the first to admit that. She wants to help the animals, but has no idea if she could pay for it by, say, selling 20,000 T-shirts or something."
Hammer and the county are willing to do their part. They've identified two pieces of county-owned land that they could lease to Gibson.
The first and most promising is at Big Eau Pleine County Park on the shores of the Eau Pleine reservoir. It has an underused campground, ample parking and easy access.
Hammer and County Administrator Mort McBain foresee it as a tourism destination, with bird lovers traveling to visit Gibson's facility.
A second parcel along Lake DuBay, an undeveloped piece of county-owned forest, also could be suitable. For that matter, McBain said, the county owns several tracts that aren't likely ever to be developed into parks, and all could house Gibson's facility.
Hammer and McBain said they and Park, Recreation and Forestry Director Bill Duncanson are ready to move forward with Gibson.
What she needs now is someone who loves birds and has business expertise to volunteer to help REGI put together a business plan.
A central Wisconsin bird rehab facility could be of great benefit to all involved, especially the birds.
But as devoted as Mrs. Mergendahl's fourth-graders at Riverside are, their bake sales won't finance the operation.
Can someone out there help?
Also in the Wausau Daily Herald opinion section as
Local Bird rehab plan coming together
Tuesday, May 25, 2004