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Some city officials are lukewarm on the proposal by a private group to build a sculpture garden featuring famous Native Americans in one of the most prominent spots in Rapid City: in Halley Park along two of the city's busiest throughways.

Parks & Recreation Advisory Board members and parks department staff this week said they are not fans of the proposed location because parking and access to the sculpture garden would be difficult.

But project proponents say that's not an issue since the privately funded sculpture garden isn't meant to draw significant foot traffic, and they are unlikely to accept any other location for their project.

"This is a sort of contemplative garden. It's not a tourist venue. It's not a place where people are going to come and you're going to charge them money," said Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, an organizer for the project.

The proposed location behind the Parks & Recreation building on West Boulevard is essentially the median between St. Joseph and West Main streets. The small parking lot in front of the city building can hold only 17 cars.

For Native American proponents of the First Nations Sculpture Garden, which will feature four busts of prominent 20th century Native Americans along sidewalks behind the Parks & Recreation building, the location is non-negotiable. But city staff and Parks & Recreation Advisory Board members say it isn't ideal.

At its meeting this week, the board directed staff to draft an agreement with the First Nations Board, which is organizing the project. The agreement is necessary for project proponents to start fundraising. Parks & Recreation Department Director Jeff Biegler said the location could still theoretically change.

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"I think that this is an area that they have described as being a very important one to their culture, and that's why they chose this site in the first place," Biegler said.

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Before the 1920s, many Native American families lived in that area of the city. Only when city leaders realized Rapid City was becoming a tourist haven did they start to relocate Native Americans to North Rapid.

Cook-Lynn wouldn't say if there was another reason board members and staff were hesitant about the project. "They really don't like the location," Cook-Lynn said.

Cook-Lynn didn't have an estimate yet on the cost of the project, saying only that it would cost "thousands of dollars." At a meeting of the First Nations board in April, proponents will discuss fundraising. "We do have people on the board who are going to be helpful and do have connections," Cook-Lynn said.

The design firm 42nd Street Design composed the original drawings pro bono, though the firm will eventually require payment. Mike Stanley, landscape architect and owner of 42nd Street Design, was enamored with the proposal.

"It's highlighting Native Americans in a different way and highlighting them in a way as showing them as lawyers and writers and teachers, and not just victims and warriors," Stanley said.

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Contact Aaron Orlowski at 484-7069 or aaron.orlowski@rapidcityjournal.com

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