Theft shuts Beban Park barnyard

NANAIMO – A cash-strapped summer petting farm has shut down early after being targeted twice by thieves.

A cash-strapped summer petting farm has shut down early after being targeted twice by thieves.

The supervisor of the Beban 4H Barnyard shuttered the agricultural program on Monday, nearly three weeks early, after livestock was reportedly stolen in a second heist.

Ducks, rabbits, wheelbarrows and feed were  taken from the barnyard over the weekend. In early July, five rabbits went missing.

Linda Barnett, barnyard supervisor for the Cedar 4H Club, said she felt “sick to her stomach” by the recent theft and couldn’t allow the barn to remain open in good conscience. The animals are on loan from area farms.

It has made for a disappointing swan song for the organization, which expected this to be its last full season. Funding shortfalls have made the future of the 4H barnyard uncertain.

“We can barely cover our wages and to have … no security at the barn. I just couldn’t take the risk of having $6,000 in animals sitting there,” Barnett said.

“I am disappointed for the community to lose what I think is an educational tool and a fun activity for little ones.”

Sabrina Meyer, 19, is also upset by the theft and barnyard closure. She has been loaning her rabbits to the agricultural program for close to four years and says this is the first time she’s ever thought twice about having her animals on display. This summer 10 of her rabbits were taken.

“It is shocking and appalling someone would do this,” she said. “The barnyard is a non-profit education program for the public.”

Bunnies are also a dime a dozen in Nanaimo, she adds.

The 4H barnyard will reopen temporarily during the Vancouver Island Exhibition, but organizers say they are unsure of the program’s future.

The Cedar 4H Club has been grappling with financial challenges for the past year after the City of Nanaimo  announced a plan to wean it off $5,000 in grant funding. The organization had already reported being hard hit by a drop in provincial gaming grant. Barnett said 4H members will be looking at options for the petting farm over the winter.