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Family battles ASU Research Park over threat to baby ducks

By: Don Kirkland

May 5, 2008   

A south Tempe family’s two-year effort to prevent baby ducks from drowning in the reflecting pool at ASU Research Park appears to have become a full-blown battle between the family and park management.

Nancy Cunningham says the issue reached crisis proportion when research-park staff began removing the makeshift exit ramps her husband had been installing for months along the edge of the pool.

Although it has been a problem only during the season when mother ducks give birth to new babies, the ducklings’ inability to escape the water results in their inevitable death, says Cunningham.

The family noticed the babies’ plight two years ago and talked with ASU Research Park management about installing some sort of escape mechanism—a concrete ramp or cinder blocks in the water.

“It was a no-brainer,” she said.

“This is ASU, after all, and they have an entire engineering department; they should be able to figure something out.”

When nothing happened and duckling season returned this year, Cunningham says her husband again installed wooden ramps along the water’s edge.

Within days, however, the ramps had inexplicably disappeared.

“He ran to Home Depot again and replaced them,” she said.

Again, the ramps were removed.

Cunningham says she called Judy Page at the Research Park management office and suggested that if they didn’t like the ramps, maybe they’d consider some sort of concrete inclines or blocks sunk in the water.

“She said, well, anything you put into the fountain damages its integrity,” suggesting nothing could be done.

Cunningham says she asked about raising the level of the water, but was told the fountain had been “engineered in a certain way” and could not be altered.

“It breaks my heart,” said Cunningham, vowing she’s just begun to fight.


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