South Main getting a new garden and statues

Published 8:26 am Monday, November 22, 2010

South Main Street is about to get prettier.

Thanks to the efforts of several community groups, including Spruce Up Austin, Windom 4-H and the city’s Parks and Recreations Department, two statues surrounded by a plant bed will be installed at the Lafayette Park area.

Lafayette Park, near S. Main Street, has been the focus of several beautification efforts in recent years. In 2009, Spruce Up Austin planted 20 trees with the help of the Austin High School wrestling team. The Windom 4-H group decided to move its plant garden to the area after its original garden, near the old Burr Oak Manor, was demolished due to construction.

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The area needed the attention, said Mike Ruzek, project coordinator for Spruce Up Austin.

“It was really a pretty bare area because there were homes taken out of there because of the floods,” Ruzek said.

When the Windom 4-H moved their garden over, members of Spruce Up Austin thought it would go well with a statue or two. Gretchen Ramlow, a member of Spruce Up Austin as well as the Austin Parks and Rec department, brought a proposal to the the Parks and Rec board.

The Parks and Rec department previously received an endowment from the estate of Lydia Lien. In 2008, a trust fund set up by the city using Lien’s money was to go towards city beautification and art projects.

That goal coincided perfectly with Spruce Up Austin’s request. The Lafayette Park area and Mill Pond are two areas scheduled to receive installations like the statues, but any work done on Mill Pond will have to wait until the city finishes its flood mitigation efforts.

“I didn’t want to put something in and get it displaced,” said Kim Underwood, director of the Parks and Rec department. “Until that construction is done, I didn’t want to put something in that we’d have to move later.”

The city recently laid the foundation for the statues, which will be put in some time around the first week of December, according to Jeff Anderson of Anderson Memorials, which was commissioned to construct and install the statues. Anderson and his wife donated half of the $9,000 it took to create and put in the statues.

“It’s just something we do,” Anderson said. “We like to see more artwork out in the communities.”

The two statues, one of a little girl leap frogging over a little boy and another of a little boy flying a kite, will be surrounded by a garden which Windom 4-H will plant in the spring. Windom 4-H will then take charge of caring for the Lafayette Park area, cleaning up and pulling weeds in the area, among other work.

One of the interesting aspects of the statues will be that each faces in a different direction. As residents drive south around the curve that cuts through the park, they’ll be greated by a different statue face going around the bend.

“When everybody goes around that curve, they’re going to have someone looking at them,” Ruzek said.