A sculpture known as "Marina the Mermaid" is homeless in West Nipissing, and for the time being, will remain stored in the municipal garage.
West Nipissing council considered where to display the statue, however, for some councillors, the risk might be too great for the municipality to bear.
The mermaid has more than a few sharp edges.
“It’s a very dangerous piece of art,” Councillor Jamie Restoule noted, and he worried people would cut themselves on the metal. People love taking photos with statues, especially kids, and if a child tried to climb onto Marina, the results could be painful—and costly.
“We do get sued a lot,” West Nipissing’s chief administrative officer Jay Barbeau emphasized. Municipalities are often sued by residents, he added and urged council to consider public safety while considering where to place the sculpture.
“We have to protect the public from that kind of liability,” he added.
The municipality does not own the sculpture, Marina is the property of the Sturgeon Falls Beautification Group. The group acquired the statue around the same time they picked up Stella the Sturgeon, another statue located in downtown Sturgeon Falls.
Stella is on full display; however, this sculpture is smoother and doesn’t pose much risk to the skin. It’s also located on private property, which takes the municipality off the hook for any liability.
For the past two years, members of the Sturgeon Falls Beautification Group and municipal council have been trying to find a place for this mermaid to rest. At the last council meeting, a report was discussed on some possible options.
Originally, the Beautification Group suggested the statue be located on the fountain between the Caisse Populaire and the Odeon. After staff investigated further, they noted: “the risk of injury and liability that this structure creates is great and staff were strongly opposed to having that statue installed on the fountain and within reach.”
Besides being sharp to the touch, the statue stands seven feet tall and weighs around 200 pounds. If vandals were determined to take it down, that falling mermaid could send a person to Davey Jones’ Locker.
The fountain would also have to be decommissioned to make it suitable for the statue, either that or a 10-to-12-foot platform be built to display the statue above the fountain. These options didn’t thrill staff, so they suggested a new location be found.
Minnehaha Bay was next on the list. One possible site was near the boat launch, with another possibility towards the end of the walking trail past the amphitheatre. Installing the statue at the boat launch would cost about $15,500 and the price rises to around $18,000 for the trail location.
It’s not just a matter picking a spot, standing the statue up and letting her be. “In order for this structure to be displayed with the public’s safety in mind,” the staff report explained, “it will need to be affixed to a base and pedestal at a minimum of 10 feet in the air.”
“The design would need to ensure the pedestal cannot be climbed and that no one can have direct access to the statue.”
Council is very hesitant to display Marina the Mermaid on municipal property. Safety and liability issues top council’s list of concerns. However, the quest to find a home for this public art is not over yet, as Barbeau noted that he will reach out to the Beautification Committee for further discussion and get back to council with some new ideas.
Marina may escape that municipal garage yet.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.