Recently, I introduced you to Maymont Park in General. Today’s focus is on the Bears that reside there. Over the years, different Bears have been lucky enough to call Maymont Park Home. These bears don’t have to worry about being hunted or where they will find food. They have ample room to roam and a large pond to frolic in on hot summer days. Not to mention, they have plenty of visitors who marvel at their size and beauty.
If you come to the bear display from the petting farm, the enclosure is on your left. There is a sheltered area under the sign boards, somewhat underground. I don’t have any photos to share, but you can take my word for it. The backboard of the structure shown is used to display announcements for upcoming events as well as artwork done by the children from local schools. It is a nice place to sit and rest for a few minutes and from which to observe the bears through the windows. As you can see, there are also permanent plaques with information about the bears and other wildlife that share their habitat.
The bears seems to enjoy the attention. Sadly, about five years ago, a mother and her young son (5 years old ?) visited the bears. Despite the signs clearly stating the bears were not to be fed, and the walls with plastic windows (allowing the children to view the bears), Mom just had to break the rules. Her irresponsible actions costs two of the bears their lives.
The woman decided to let her child hand feed the bears an apple. She went beyond the lower fence on the far side of their enclosure, then let her child feed the bear through a second chain linked fence. When the bear reached for the apple, he scratched the boy accidentally. Since no one knew which bear scratched the child, both bears were destroyed. It was not like the kid was attacked, but the park officials panicked and after a brief meeting decided the only thing to do was to euthanize the bears to test them for rabies. Their feeble excuse was that the bears could not be quarantined. Hello! The bears WERE quarantined all along. This was not a bear attack, it was an accident that could have been avoided altogether. The people of Richmond and the surrounding areas were outraged. Then to add insult to injury, the bears corpses were hauled off to the local dump. That little move really iced the cake. The backboard shown above was filled with teddy bears and notes of grievance and anger, directed at those responsible for the decision to have the bears ‘murdered’. Local radio shows were overrun with calls from the citizens demanding that something be done to commemorate the bears, and to give them the recognition they deserved. Even Doug Wilder, our Mayor at the time, was outraged that these bears were unjustly killed.
It took several days, combing the landfill to find those two corpses to give them a proper burial upon the insistence of the public. A local funeral home cremated the two bears and they now forever RIP in their own private little plot off the path leading to the bear pen. In another location a bronze statue was erected to honor ALL Maymont bears. The children love to play on the statue as you can see. While the statue is a lovely gesture, it would have been nice to have been donated to the park, less the tragedy that prompted its placement.