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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

“Banding Together for the Past, Present, and Future:” Big plans for Jack Miner Bird Sanctuary

Director of Marketing and Fundraising, Tim Dobson, displays a special Jack Miner edition newspaper & his typewriter.

by Sylene Argent with historical photos supplied by Jack Miner Migration Bird Sanctuary.

In the mid-1960s, the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary was the second largest tourist attraction across the nation, second only to Niagara Falls. New Director of Marketing and Fundraising, Tim Dobson, hopes to restore the local conservation site to the status it once had, and well deserves today, through implementing improvements that will highlight the local role in the international history of conservation.

  Community support is being sought to help with these efforts. 

  “In the ‘60s, on some of the busy days, there would be 5000 vehicles in one day,” Dobson said of the site’s popularity.

  “We’ve got something here we have got to get back on the map,” Dobson commented, riffling through archives bursting with pictures of the Father of Conservation, Jack Miner, with other notable historical figures, including friend Henry Ford. The museum also has a vast collection of preserved news articles and items Miner used to bring attention to his conservation efforts.  

  With this history in mind, Jack Miners’ new tagline will be, “BANDING Together for the Past, Present, and Future.”

  Dobson has plans to build an interactive, world-class wildlife institution, to be called the “Jack Miner International Wildlife Museum,” where more of Miner’s items, photos, certificates, and letters could be displayed.

  He would also like to add a playground, eating area, and washrooms within the Kennedy Woods trail system, to attract future visitors to the area.

  “We are trying to get public awareness,” Dobson said of trying to reach towards making these dreams attainable. “This is a landmark to preserve the history of one of the world’s greatest heroes, especially in conservation history.”

  It is all about thinking globally, locally, he said.

  He noted it costs around $500,000 a year to run the current facility, so support is crucial in not only supporting the current operation, but to expand the services to ensure the Sanctuary can be preserved and viable for future generations to learn from and enjoy.

  One of the upcoming fundraising efforts includes an onsite wild game dinner on July 17.

  Miner, born on April 10, 1865 in Dover Centre, Ohio, and was one of 10 children born to English immigrant parents. He spent his childhood in the woods, perfecting hunting skills, resisting his parents’ plea to go to school. In 1878, the Miner family moved to Canada. Here, he worked hard, alongside his family members, to cultivate a better life.

  It wasn’t until Miner was in his mid 30s, after he began teaching Sunday School, did he learn to read and write, Dobson said.

  In 1904, at age 39, Miner purchased seven wing-clipped Canada geese and took them to his mud pond hoping to attract wild migrating geese. Four-years later, 11 geese landed in his pond. This would be the genesis of what would become a world-renowned bird sanctuary, which is still frequently visited today.

  Miner then became a public speaker, and his events were well attended. The admission fees to his events paved the way to finance, build, and maintain the bird sanctuary, information from the conservation site notes.

  Miner founded the Sanctuary, located on his family’s property on the 3rd Concession in Kingsville, in 1904. Five-years later, he banded his first mallard duck with his name and address. Now, the Jack Miner band is legendary.

  On January 10, 1910, the first banded duck was shot by Dr W. E. Bray of Anderson, in South Carolina, which constituted the first complete record, as to where a bird was banded and where it was shot on the North American continent, information from the sanctuary notes.

  Miner banded his first Canadian Goose in 1915, using the numbered, aluminium bands.

  In 1917, US President Herbert Hoover asked Miner to speak at the Izaak Walton League in Chicago at the National Convention Centre. Over 1200 men and women attended the event paying $10 per plate. Miner received a fee of $1000, plus $100 expenses, information from the Sanctuary highlights.

  Recognizing the importance, he began to speak about keeping the Great Lakes clean in 1927.  

  In 1928, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King invited Miner to speak at one of the largest Auditoriums in Ottawa. In 1929, Miner was awarded the Outdoor Life Gold Medal for the greatest achievements in wildlife conservation on the Continent. This was the first time it was ever given to a Canadian, information from the Sanctuary notes.

  Dobson also spoke about how, in 1936, Miner was selected by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, to give the “Round the World” radio address, representing Canada, in celebration of King George V’s 25th anniversary as the reigning Monarch of the British Empire.

Dobson noted that when Miner passed in 1944, he had over 4000 unfilled speaking engagements. Dobson added that 16,500 people visited the Sanctuary to pay their respects to Miner after he passed.

“Everybody loved him,” Dobson said. “He was simple, well spoken.”

  Miner had influential friends and connections, including Henry Ford, who, upon a visit, paid to have 25-acres of fence built around the sanctuary, noticing there was a need. Dobson said Ford told Miner he had to hire local labourers. At the time, an average wage was around $1.25 per day. Dobson said Ford paid those local labourers $5 per day. During this visit, Ford also noticed Miner did not have a victrola, so he purchased one for him, which is still on display in the museum.

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