The best news that we've heard over the last week or so involves new efforts to return Albany's famed Waverly Duck to its rightful habitat, bobbing happily on the waters of Waverly Lake.
Now, let's be clear: This is probably not the most important news of the week. But it is a welcome development in a long-running Albany story. And if it ends with the duck's triumphant return to the lake, then so much the better.
You know the back story already: The 600-pound spray-foam and fiberglass duck sculpture first started plying the waters of Waverly Lake in the mid-1980s, greeting drivers who were rolling into Albany from the north. In 1997, it was purchased by antique shop owner Mike Briggs.
Time took its toll on the duck, however, and by 2007, the Albany Parks & Recreation Department pulled the duck from the water in the wake of concerns over its condition and upkeep.
It has not returned to the water in the decade since then. Most recently, the duck has been in exile in a back lot of Corvallis Tree & Lawn Care in Albany. We are thankful to Mark Pickens, the owner of the company, for giving refuge to the duck, but that's not where the duck belongs.
The idea to resurrect the duck came in January, when Mike Briggs' widow, Pam Briggs, came to Mayor Sharon Konopa to see if the city would be willing to take ownership. The City Council passed on the offer.
That triggered a fresh effort on the part of Konopa, Councilor Ray Kopczynski and Ed Hodney, the city's acting economic development and urban renewal director: The three have launched a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/Waverly-Duck to help raise money to pay for the duck's restoration. Kopczynski even coughed up the first $100 contribution.
The goal is to raise $5,000 or so to help cover the duck's upkeep and maintenance.
Already, members of the community have stepped forward to offer assistance: Main Auto Body, for example, has said it will donate nearly 40 hours of labor to the effort, as well as materials to restore the duck and give it a primer coat. After that, volunteers would be enlisted to paint the duck so that it looks like a wood duck, although (of course) considerably larger than life-size.
It is Hodney's hope that this fundraising effort becomes the first project for the Albany Parks & Recreation Foundation. Normally, you want to give newborn organizations like the foundation some time in relative obscurity so they can quietly go about the initial work of raising funds from donors. But helping to bankroll the return of the Waverly Duck is a rare opportunity to make a big public splash, so to speak: It would be an outstanding first project for the new foundation and could help pave the way to long-term success.
The question of whether the duck will be able to once again grace the waters of Waverly Lake obviously isn't among the most pressing issues facing Albany, and we can't blame the council for taking a pass.
But the duck, as goofy as it is, is undeniably a part of the fabric of Albany. Communities aren't all about infrastructure — roads and water systems and public safety agencies, as important as those things are. Communities also find ways to accommodate these unexpected grace notes that help make memories, that give a place its unique flavor, that add a note of whimsy.
Besides, what better way to welcome families headed into town to ride the new carousel than greeting them with a gigantic duck serenely floating on Waverly Lake? Let's hope it's smooth sailing for this effort. (mm)