Chinese Goose may get a plaque at Broadway Bridge

By Crystal Kang

Whenever people strolled over Broadway Bridge at Crystal Lake Park, they would see a familiar face greeting the visitors by turning somersaults in the pond.

The park’s familiar Chinese Goose, who was released into the wild by its owner 18 years ago, died last spring, and the Urbana City Council will now consider paying the goose homage with a plaque near its habitat.

The goose lived in harmony among the Canadian geese community. Despite the seasonal changes, this goose made the pond its permanent home and struggled year after year to adapt to Urbana’s cold weather.

“He was a very long-time resident of the park who went through year after year of hardship,” said Roseanne Meccoli, coordinator of relations at the Wildlife Medical Clinic at the University. She said she first identified the goose’s origin using a bird book. “Several devoted people took care of him. It warms your heart to see people care.”

This particular goose was unique for its white feathers and orange beak and feet. He made a lasting impression for several Urbana residents who felt his life was meaningful and heart warming to the people who visited the pond.

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His death in April devastated several Urbana residents, who asked the city council to commemorate the goose with a lasting memorial.

The council will decide whether or not to grant permission to install a bronze plaque on Broadway Bridge at Monday’s meeting.

Urbana resident George Boyd proposed a resolution to install a bronze plaque in memory of this Chinese Goose that passed away of old age.

This would not cost the city any money since Boyd said he is willing to cover the expenses. The installation of the plaque would take place in spring 2009. because Boyd said the concrete on the bridge would be cold, and the epoxy cement wouldn’t tear properly in the winter.

“At this point, we’re in front of the official council meeting,” Boyd said. “(If the resolution passes), I have to get together with the committee and make sure the wording on the plaque is appropriate.”

The plaque would appear on the west side of Broadway Bridge, which is the closest landmark to the east island on the pond where the Chinese Goose spent most of its life.

During the goose’s lifetime, Urbana resident Sherry Slade said she consistently watched over the bird she appropriately named Goose. She developed a close relationship with Goose, making sure it preened itself and had access to food and water all year round.

“I looked after the goose for 20 years,” Slade said. “I knew age was creeping in on him. I noticed his eyes were dimming. When I called him, he wouldn’t hear me until I got closer.”

When the geese at Crystal Lake Park migrated southward during the winters, Goose had to adapt to the weather change in Urbana. If the pond froze, he had to find an alternative source of water.

“It was heart rending to see him stay when everyone else flew south,” said Meccoli,

The Chinese Goose knew how to make smart decisions when it came to survival. The saline, a shallow water body running from the water treatment plant to underneath Broadway Bridge, is what kept the goose alive during the cold winters.

Boyd called the goose Chungking, which was the temporary Nationalist capital name of China that lasted throughout World War II.

“Chungking would walk over the frozen pond to the saline and go down the bank in the winter because he knew there was a continuous flowing water supply,” Boyd said.

The water treatment plant dispenses heat as it purifies its water from the saline. This heat prevents the saline from freezing during the winters.

“I’d go as far down as Armory by Ambucs Park down to the banks of the saline,” Slade said. “I had to use a rope to get down and pull myself up. I knew his habits, and he knew I’d be there.”

During the goose’s lifetime, he had a Canadian mate named Patience who bore mixed offspring.

Several years ago, the Wildlife Medical Clinic treated the Chinese Goose with antibiotics after a fishing hook got caught in its foot. Fishing hooks have always been a threat to the geese’s natural habitat, but Slade said it was a blessing that the goose lived a full lifespan and died of natural causes.