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Pigeon poop is damaging the historic Samson V in New West

How are pigeon droppings damaging the Samson V museum?
The Samson V is currently shrink-wrapped, in part to prevent further damage to the roof from pigeon droppings.

Pigeon poop is making a mess of the roof of the Samson V.

The City of New Westminster’s draft five-year capital plan includes $60,000 in 2023 for repairs to the vessel – in part to repair damage caused by pigeon droppings. Located on the city’s waterfront next to the Inn at the Quay and River Market, the Samson V was the last steam-powered sternwheeler to operate in Canada.

Rob McCullough, the city’s manager of museums and heritage services, said the $60,000 is for doing some repair work to the Samson V’s roof, so the city can avoid having any leaks and avoid further damage.

“The pigeon problems that we've had on there were due to rotting of the canvas roofing that is on there right now,” he told council at a recent budget workshop. “I'm looking into a different type of product that is no longer canvas that won't respond or react to the pigeon droppings in the same way.”

In addition to this year’s proposed $60,000 for repairs, the draft five-year plan proposes $35,000 annually for ongoing maintenance of the vessel, McCullough noted.

“We had a contractor that had been working with us to do ongoing maintenance on the vessel, and that work does need to continue happening,” he said. “Some of the other items on there, such as the grid decking… is just a regular repair. There's also some painting work that needs to be done on the exterior of the vessel and some wood repair work that needs to be done in order to be able to make it a little bit more presentable.”

The draft 2023 to 2027 capital plan includes $38,000 in 2023 for dredging around and beneath the Samson, which needs to be done every three years to allow the vessel to remain afloat without becoming lodged in the sand and silt that is constantly deposited by the river. In 2025, $37,000 is earmarked for repair and replacement of decking on the Samson V.

Built in 1937, the vessel served a number of roles during its career on the water, including clearing debris. It was retired in 1980 and sold to the City of New Westminster for $1, with the understanding that it would be preserved as a museum showcasing the province’s and city’s maritime heritage.

McCullough later told the Record that the Samson has been closed this winter, as is always the case during the winter months.

“This is largely due to the fact that it is not hospitable to be in the vessel in the winter, and foot traffic along the boardwalk is much lower,” he said. “As usual, we will be opening again this spring for the summer season.”

According to the Government of Canada’s website, pigeon droppings are acidic and can erode metal and stonework.

McCullough said the shrink-wrapping currently on the Samson V was triggered by the leaking, but it’s not an uncommon practice to do this to marine vessels to winterize them.

“The degradation of the roof is predominantly a rotting of the canvas,” he added. “It’s evident in all the places where the droppings have landed.”