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Granite Creek Park bench revision plan removes symbols, designs

Courtesy photo<br>
Plans for the redesign of the Granite Creek Park bench.

Courtesy photo<br> Plans for the redesign of the Granite Creek Park bench.

PRESCOTT - Opting for what she sees as a middle course, student artist Kristin Anthony has proposed a more "abstract" design on the controversial park bench at Prescott's Granite Creek Park.

The plan, which would call for a replacement of the symbols and unique designs on the bench, is now making its way through the City of Prescott's review process.

Anthony met with Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Horton on Friday morning to continue the discussion of the bench that the Prescott College senior created in the city park over the summer.

Also at the meeting were landscape consultant Ryan Gates, who helped Anthony with the structural design of the bench, local attorney Bill Fortner, who Anthony said was there as a mediator, and City Director of Public Affairs Kim Kapin.

After the meeting, Anthony said the plan she submitted to the city Friday would eliminate the symbols currently on the bench and would adopt a "more abstract" approach.

"I would take off all of the existing tiles, all of the content," Anthony said.

The revised design would still involve the use of mosaics, but would be less varied. The proposal calls for inlaid designs depicting native animals such as a rattlesnake, scorpion, roadrunner, and horse on the backrest. No more than five colors would be used.

Anthony was hopeful that the revision work could begin within the next several days.

Kapin said Friday afternoon that the revised design is being forwarded to the city's building and parks and recreation departments for review.

"We should have something back to her by next week," Kapin said.

The park bench, which features a colorful array of designs and symbols such as a peace sign and a police badge, has generated controversy in the community since the city's late-September move to shut down Anthony's work on it.

City officials say the intricate design would be impossible to maintain, and they have also questioned the functionality and safety of the bench.

Friday morning, before the meeting with Anthony, Horton said, "The entire structure is going to have to be studied."

Horton said city officials were concerned that park workers would have a difficult time preserving the original design. "If you don't maintain it, it is just going to become an eyesore," she said.

Gates said the revised design should allay those concerns. "There won't be a lot of discrepancy in the tiles," he said of the proposed plan.

For Anthony, the decision to propose removing the original design was obviously a difficult one.

"I really wanted to push to keep what we have," Anthony said. "I was debating whether to let them (the city) tear it down to make a statement, but I don't know what kind of statement that would be."

Although Anthony has emphasized that her senior project was intended to bring the community together, she acknowledged that it brought out many divergent views.

"For a lot of people, it was black or white - either keep the tiles, or submit to (the city's) will and be censored," Anthony said, maintaining that she ultimately decided to opt for somewhere in between.

In the interest of keeping the bench in place, Anthony said the project would lose some of the uniqueness that came from having participation from many different sources.

"It is not what comes from each individual's perspective," Anthony said of the new design. "Maybe we can replicate that somewhere else."

Friday's meeting took place on Horton's last day on the job. She earlier announced that she would be retiring on Friday after about five years with the city - the last three and a half of which have been as parks and recreation director.

She cited the controversy over the bench as the low point of her time with the city. "I'm really distressed it had to come to this," she said.

Although city officials have stressed that Anthony failed to follow the plans she originally submitted for the bench, Horton said they were allowing for the revision plans because the project did not get proper city oversight.

"We're allowing a little deviation, because we feel bad we let it go this long," she said.

After the meeting, Horton said she feels allowing Anthony's revised design to proceed would be "the right thing to do."

She added: "It's been an unbelievably bumpy road to get here, but hopefully we can end on a win-win note."

Anthony said she plans to be at the park on Saturday and Sunday to do some preparation work for the revision.

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