ORLANDO – As Mayor Buddy Dyer used a shovel to dump cement into a small hole in the grass at Lake Eola Park, someone jokingly asked if he was putting up a sign.
The mayor laughed and added, “Politicians have put up signs before.”
But while 2012 is clearly a major election year, with a presidential campaign at the top of the ticket and in one of the nation’s most competitive swing states, for Dyer and City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, election time is long over.
Both Dyer and Sheehan ran for re-election last April, and won landslide victories in the City Beautiful’s municipal elections. Today they had a very different mission: to inspire visitors to Lake Eola Park to take a moment to check out the lake itself, and the swans, geese and ducks that call it home – and to feed them, albeit safely.
Dyer and Sheehan, Orlando’s District 4 commissioner, joined staff from the city’s Parks Department this morning to install three new swan feeders at Lake Eola Park. The mayor inserted the feeder stands into pre-dug holes, then poured concrete around the stands to hold them securely in place.
As a crowd of spectators and members of the local news media gathered around, the major poured the concrete into the hole around the feeder, then asked, “Is is straight?”
It was indeed, the Parks employees noted.
Sheehan then used a rake to cover dirt over the cement.
“You’re going to fill it now?” Sheehan asked, as the mayor nodded.
He then opened the plastic feeder box inside the black stand, and Sheehan took a bag of layer feed, opened it, and began filling the box with those little brown pellets.
Once sealed up, the feeder box costs 25 cents to get out the pellets that can be used to feed the swans in the lake.
“There you go,” Sheehan said, while Dyer quickly added, “Try it out.”
And they both did, taking a handful of the pellets, then moving toward the lake, camera crews and spectators close behind.
Dyer began following one swan which, despite the offer of those pellets, continued to move away from the mayor and toward the water, as the camera crew stayed right behind the mayor.
Sheehan, meantime, walked up to the lake and called out to the ducks and swans swimming nearby, and tried tempting them with the pellets.
“We kind of have a favorite one here,” she said, as she began tossing pellets into the water.
“Come on, baby, come over here,” she said – then just as quickly pulled her hand away.
“Oh, don’t bite!” she scolded one swan.
Two of the swan feeders are located near the park’s playground area, while the third one was placed near the Ting Pavilion.
As the mayor’s office noted, the feeders were set up because all too often, the park’s visitors bring their own food there, sometimes tossing it to the swans and ducks – but what they bring is not always appropriate for the wildlife in the lake.
Feeding swans and other water fowl the wrong food can make them sick, the mayor’s office noted, and even cause diseases like Angel Wing, which can kill the swans.
The city is hoping park visitors use the new feeders and that they provide a much safer and healthier option for providing a meal to the swans.
“Other approved foods include lettuce, any loose field greens, spinach leaves and duck pellet food that can be purchased at any pet or feed store,” the mayor’s office noted.
This is also a part of Dyer’s ongoing “work-alongs” with various city staff. In the past, the mayor has gone door-to-door with Orlando Police officers in the Parramore Heritage Neighborhood to provide information to local residents, picked up garbage with Orlando’s Solid Waste employees, and worked in the customer service and development review areas of the Permitting Services department.
This is also an effort to promote the revitalization of a park that’s often teeming with activity at night, attracting walkers, joggers, people with dogs on leashes, couples strolling arm in arm, and families with children crowding the pathways.
That’s included the fountain in the center of the lake, which has a music and light show that offers a display of multi-colored lights on the fountain that march in lockstep with songs being played over loudspeakers.
The fountain that dates back to the 1950s, and it suffered electrical and mechanical problems in the summer of 2009 when it was struck by a lightning bolt. The city made upgrades and renovations to the fountain, and in October 2011, daily jazz shows began running at 8 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. featuring a choreographed water, light and sound show.
Lake Eola Park will also host the first ever Soaked event, a new extreme water festival coming to Orlando on Sept. 7-8. The festival will feature world champion water skiers competing for a hefty grand prize, while also providing music, motor shows, carnival rides and food to the event’s spectators.
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