Park bench supporters will make their case at City Hall Tuesday
PRESCOTT - Over one hundred supporters of the Granite Creek Park bench designed as an art project by a local college student gathered Sunday afternoon for a combination picnic/show of support for the controversial bench, which has drawn fire from some city officials.
Kristin Anthony stood on her concrete structure with a bullhorn, rallying the crowd.
"Be at City Hall on Tuesday for the City Council meeting for a peaceful protest to say 'We like the bench the way it is,' because on Wednesday at 10 a.m., we have another meeting with (Parks Director) Debbie Horton where she's expecting us to submit a proposal that includes taking the tiles off. But we're not taking them off."
The tiles, along with assorted other small objects, are at the center of the controversy. City of Prescott Public Affairs Director Kim Kapin in a news release quoted acting Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes as saying that the tiles are sharp and represent a safety hazard to people using the bench. "The bench was poorly constructed and the tile and rock fragments used in the mosaic designs presented sharp edges which are a safety issue," he said in Kapin's news release.
However, in a video of a meeting between Anthony and Debbie Horton, who says she is the Parks Director, posted to YouTube, Horton says, "I am not concerned about safety."
"When you put things into a public domain, you need to put something in that's going to appeal to the masses," Horton continued. "Government's not looking for controversy. The way you do that is you put in traditional things. Unfortunately, you can't put in the eclectic or the unique because the general masses want basic and functional."
City councilman Steve Blair has said on his KYCA radio show last week that he is dissatisfied with the fact that Anthony's sketch of the bench did not accurately depict the finished project.
"It all gets twisted around that it is me that being the one that is so critical of it (the bench), and what it really is, it's the folks who can't follow directions that create and do something against the peoples' will and then they want to scream foul," Blair said on the radio.
"There was zero oversight on this. None," he added.
Anthony has claimed that city employees were at the site for weeks, watching the work with approval. In the video, Horton said, "They didn't have that authority."
"What I am telling you is, I would sign off on this today," she said, holding up Anthony's sketch. "If it had ended up like this, it wouldn't have been an issue."
Anthony said she would be willing to submit documentation that showed the project as it stands now.
"This is all I am willing to sign off on," Horton said.
Prescott resident Frances Thomas visited the park Sunday afternoon. "I came here to see the bench because I wanted to see what this was," she said. "I came here with no opinion whatsoever. I'm not an artist, but I fell in love with it."
"Prescott is called 'Everybody's Hometown,' and that's saying we are a diverse community and this expresses that diversity," Thomas said.
Petitions circulated by supporters, asking the city to allow the bench to stay, had collected 200 signatures by the end of the rally, said one organizer.
"When you do public art, there should be a way, without a doubt, to have the people who are elected in this community to analyze it - whether they want to have public art in this community and what its merits are and what its mission statement is," said Blair.