Former mayor gives away the farm
Former Haines Borough Mayor Bob Henderson will donate his 14-acre farm to the American Bald Eagle Foundation for use rehabilitating eagles.
The property will be the site of a 20-by-20-by-200-foot cage for re-training eagles to fly. The Haines-based foundation hopes to have the facility in place within two years.
"As you get more birds, you’re going to need more space. I have the exact space in front of my house that would be a perfect fit," Henderson told a luncheon gathering at the foundation building May 15. "I’m looking for a real future with the bald eagle foundation and my property."
Henderson, a commercial farmer and former school teacher, said an eagle facility would be a fitting use for the Comstock Road property, which represents the last of several large farms that once dominated the town’s west side.
Henderson, 90, said he’d rather not see his land subdivided for homes, and the agreement will allow the land also to be used to keep horses and for use as a community garden. "When no one is interested in horses or in a community garden, (the eagle foundation) can use the property for what they please."
A ‘living will’ agreement will allow Henderson to stay on the property for the rest of his life. He told the eagle foundation he’s looking forward to watching eagles in training out his window.
Eagle foundation creator Dave Olerud worked with Henderson when both were school teachers. At the Saturday luncheon, Olerud called Henderson "an unbelievable human being" whose donation would allow the foundation to take its next step. "With Robert Henderson’s addition, the sky’s the limit. There’s so much to be done."
Foundation director Cheryl Roberts said the group is hoping to get a grant that would help them land a resident veterinarian, a requirement for a facility that rehabilitates birds.
Saturday’s luncheon was in appreciation of efforts by state Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, and state Sen. Albert Kookesh, D-Angoon, to secure funding for the foundation. Legislators in 2008 secured $375,000 for an addition to the foundation building including an eagle mew and offices. This year they appropriated an additional $269,000 for the project, pending approval by Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell.
Kookesh was absent but Thomas used the occasion to highlight Olerud’s service to the center, calling it a tribute to determination and a benefit to the community.
The festivities were capped by Thomas’ release of an eagle at Letnikof Cove that was found injured in Haines in November. It also included a live bird presentation featuring ‘Hunter,’ a Barred owl, and ‘Zilla,’ a Lanner Saker falcon, both now residents at the foundation’s outdoor mews.
George, the foundation’s first eagle, is still being trained as a display bird. The eight-year-old male was found on a frozen lake two winters ago in Juneau, blind in one eye and missing two toes. Live birds will be used during tours of the center this summer.
Luncheon guest Kelly Lowe, a local tour guide, said live birds would be the "icing on the cake" for the foundation. Lowe takes visitors through the building.
"They come to Haines to see the eagles. When they come into the foundation, they want to see live eagles. They’re going to love this."
Mayor Jan Hill characterized the bird presentations as another reason to come to Haines. "Every bit of improvement makes us a better place to visit. How many people from down south have seen an eagle up close the way we get to see them here?"