9-year-girl demands town council action to improve duck safety … and gets it

Gracie, 9, and area resident Chantal Parsons stand beside the new duck crossing sign located on a street in Portugal Cove- St. Philip's.
Gracie, 9, and area resident Chantal Parsons stand beside the new duck crossing sign located on a street in Portugal Cove- St. Philip's. (Submitted by Tara Barker)

Nine-year-old Gracie Barker saw a problem: ducks were getting hurt on the roads in her hometown of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. So she demanded action — and her feathered friends are now safer for it.

It started with two ducks that Gracie named Olive and Yolk. Gracie's mother, Tara Barker, said they show up near the family's home in the town, which neighbours St. John's, every spring. They eat the sprouts in the ditch in front of their home, waddle around the road and make their way to the family's back door.

When they showed this year, Olive and Yolk had been joined by two more ducks, that Gracie named Baba and Gigi, but something was wrong. Olive — the "mama duck" as Gracie calls her — was hurt.

"We noticed that the female duck was injured pretty badly. She couldn't walk at all. She could fly, but she was kind of dragging herself around," Barker said.

"Her leg was hurt," added Gracie.

With more ducks in the area, and an injured duck on their hands, Barker asked people in a Facebook group for residents to drive cautiously in the area.

Resident Chantal Parsons offered to help.

"I live in an area where there is also a high volume of ducks, and I often see injured ones. So I reached out to Tara and said, you know, like, 'What can we do?'" Parsons said.

Every spring, two ducks show up to the Barker's home in Portugal Cove- St. Philip's.
Every spring, two ducks show up to the Barkers' home in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's. This year there they had company. (Submitted by Tara Barker)

First, the Barkers and Parsons launched a petition demanding Duck Crossing signs be erected, and they gathered almost 300 signatures in just a couple of days.

Then Gracie wrote a letter to the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, delivering it herself to town hall, with the same demand: "We need to put our crossing signs up so ducks don't get hit by a car," she said.

Her mother helped her write the letter.

"She wanted to say, 'This is Olive and Yolk, and we're caring for Mama Duck, and so is Daddy Duck. He's caring for Mama Duck, too. So we're all doing our part and we all need to contribute to keep her safe," Barker said.

Faced with an adorable nine-year-old with a reasonable request, backed by hundreds of signatures from residents, the town responded.

A Duck Crossing sign has been placed on Tara and Gracie Barker's street. The Barkers say they're off to a good start and hope the town will erect more signs on the area's busier streets.

While Olive has since recovered with the help of "hemp hearts, nutritional yeast, oats, and water," according to Gracie, she has one last request for the public: respect the ducks.

And a message for the town.

"Thank you for putting up the Duck Crossing sign."

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