It truly takes a village to raise a cougar, observed Chemainus Valley Museum Board member Amy Brophy.
The Chemainus Valley Museum and Municipality of North Cowichan collaborated on a project with several community volunteers to bring a six-foot historic cougar sculpture out of the elements – where it experienced considerable wear and tear over the years – and into a new forever home inside the Museum. The cougar now looks out proudly over its new domain from the Museum window at the current exit doors.
The space was formerly occupied by a stately-looking fellow in RCMP red serge enclosed in a case, but there were concerns the outfit would eventually turn pink with continued exposure to the sunlight.
“That’s what started the whole thing,” said Brophy. “We were trying to find a new display for the front of the Museum.”
That’s where the cougar carving entered the picture.
In 2000, Chemainus received a BC Spirit Grant to make improvements to Waterwheel Park. As part of that project, local logger and wood carver Pat Herrmann created five life-sized wildlife sculptures out of cedar: a bear, an eagle, a pair of herons, a pair of raccoons and a cougar. Fellow Chemainus tree faller Ian Shaw hoisted the sculptures onto trees in the park and the cougar sat atop a tree on the hill behind H.R. MacMillan’s statue. The cougar was later re-positioned on top of the Gateway sign in Waterwheel Park.
The Gateway sign came down this summer since it had deteriorated and become unstable. The Museum contacted Don Stewart, North Cowichan’s Director of Parks and Recreation, and offered to restore and display the cougar.
Municipal Forester Shaun Mason located a cedar log in the windfall salvage for the cougar’s stand, which needed to clear a 33-inch tail. Mason, Brophy, local woodworker Dick Zuyderduyn and Paul Joy of Antique Addict in Ladysmith then all went out to the forest.
“We actually cut the log to the exact specifications,” said Brophy.
Zuyderduyn spent many volunteer hours beautifully restoring the cougar and creating the stand.
“I liked the museum project – you’re preserving something not only for now but for future generations to enjoy,” he said. “That’s a good enough reason to take on the project.”
Museum members Doug Simmonds, Frank Work and David Lambert helped move the cougar and cedar log in the process.
“It was a real community effort to get the cougar back to its former glory and we are extremely grateful for North Cowichan’s support,” noted Museum President Linda Tucker at the unveiling Sept. 29.
“We thank North Cowichan for its steadfast and substantial financial support since the Museum’s founding in 1991, much of which has come from the Municipal Forest Reserve Fund, fulfilling its mandate to support important community, recreation and cultural initiatives,” added Brophy.
“I know the Museum appreciates our support and that’s exactly why we have things like a Forest Reserve Fund, to give back to the community,” noted Mayor Al Siebring. “This collaborative project brought North Cowichan, the Museum and the community together to ensure the cougar can be enjoyed for future generations. And, I can’t think of a better purpose for blowdown salvage, than to be a perch for a beautiful, local carving.”
The cougar can be seen from the Plaza or close up inside the Museum. Fall hours are Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
* For more on Zuyderduyn and his work on the project, see page 2.