Disappointment lingers over killing of Swans, Peacocks at Aviary

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The cruel act of vandalism that resulted in the death of a dozen birds — including swans and peacocks — at the Pioneer Park Aviary has left this community shaking its collective heads. Why?

It makes no sense. It was a person or people being mean for the sake of being mean. It’s absolutely despicable.

And as Walla Walla Parks and Recreations Director Andy Coleman pointed out, the heinous act feels even more egregious because it’s an assault on the entire community, which came together to save the Aviary from being eliminated from Pioneer Park.

After severe storm damage to the netting and poles at the start and end of 2008, rebuilding the facility was in doubt. City officials said at the time said they couldn’t justify improvements if long-term funds weren’t in place for daily operations. The Great Recession had hit the city budget as hard as the storms hit the Aviary.

A group of citizens formed the Friends of the Pioneer Park Aviary and embarked on an extensive campaign to save the bird sanctuary that was first started on a smaller scale around 1980 by the Walla Walla Valley Lionesses Club.

The result was a new Aviary and long-term funding for the popular attraction at the park. The Friends group raised $119,000 to keep the facility operating for two years. And then another $230,000 was combined with city insurance claims from storm damage to fully fund an approximately $381,000 single enclosure reconstruction. The final cost for the new facility, which was finished in 2016, was $410,000.

Coleman said birds were killed over the last 10 days. Aviary caretakers discovered the dead birds and holes cut into the netting.

Coleman estimates it will cost up to $5,000 to replace the birds. But the money isn’t the biggest concerns, it’s the senseless cruelty .

Yes, steps will be taken to protect the Aviary from future vandalism — cameras are likely to be installed as occurred at Washington Park after vandals struck there — but the disappointment that people would actually go to such lengths to kill swans and peacocks linger.