City supports park despite concerns

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Last Tuesday, August 8, the Watertown City Council approved direction for the final touches on the park surrounding Da’Vinci’s Wing.The flowers are picked out, tree placement is planned and now the furniture is officially chosen.

The McDonald family has been a large force in this project. They raised $35,000, designed the site with their own contractor, recruited volunteers for remaining work on the site and have received contributions from various organizations like the City of Watertown and Carver County Soil and Water District.

One of the families last decisions was the furniture to be placed in the park. The amenities will be from By the Yard, a company based in Jordan, Minnesota that builds furniture from recycled plastic milk jugs. The family is making the donation through the city’s Park Furniture Donation Program. This makes the McDonald’s the first family to ever use it, said city administrator Shane Fineran.

The program states: “By making a donation you can have your group recognized, provide a memorial to a special person, or honor someone for his/her contributions to Watertown. The City will permit an inscribed commemorative plaque with your personalized message and have placed it on your donated item. Anonymous donations are welcomed as well.”

The bill for the two benches, two engraving charges and trash can comes to $3,890. The city is putting forth the money right now and Abbie McDonald assures the city they already have the money to reimburse them.

A concern brought up by the council was that the chosen amenities are not in line with standard issue policy for park amenities in Watertown.

“I want to make sure we are not setting precedence that all other parks in town can be individualized and customized,” said councilmember Lindsay Guetzkow. “ We need to memorialize that this is totally an exception.”

Councilmember Andrew Pawelk said he is not concerned right now, but he is concerned long term. He asked what the process is for these donations including future maintenance. He said that is not something the council has had to handle yet.

An example of this is Mayor Steve Washburn’s biggest fear – vandalism. He said his concern is that the composite material will be easy to destroy, even if it’s just children jumping on the benches.

“I will not approve a new bench with a plaque paid for by city money. So if it’s vandalised it will be replaced with regular gear or stay vandalised,” Washburn said.

Washburn reminded McDonald that when the product is donated it is owned by the city. He said that means city staff has the authority to maintain and replace as they see fit. The family is going to lose a lot of control according to Washburn. He called it a “transfer of ownership”.

In the end the council described their attitude as, indifferent.

“I think we should allow something that is outside the norm a little bit, now i’m indifferent. I do understand the need for standards keeping uniform among the parks for maintenance and replace ability though,” said councilmember Michael Walters.

Everson and Walters both agreed they were on board as long as the family understands that for whatever reason it needs to be replaced, it will be replaced with the city’s standard issue. The rest of the council agreed.
“I’m okay with giving it a try especially since it’s in line with the families wishes and it’s at a lower cost than our design quality stands for but it’s still a quality product,” Guetzkow said.

“The consensus of the council is we are going to roll with this and see what happens, we will proceed with wishes of the family,” Washburn said.

DaVinci’s Wing is a 10,000 pound, 12-foot-tall steel sculpture valued at $23,000. The statue is made by Watertown native, the late Pat McDonald and is currently sitting in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.
Over a year ago, McDonald’s family decided to raise the estimated $55,000 it would cost to move the statue from Chicago and place it along the Crow River in Watertown. The family raised $35,000 and with a $15,000 investment from the city the statue is expected to be installed by the end of May.
“I don’t know the last time the city accepted something like this,” said Watertown Mayor Steve
“This is really a unique situation,” Pawelk said.
“It’s a donation from the family so it is highly emotional,” Washburn said. “The important part is getting it right.”
Washburn recognizes there may be bumps in the road to getting the sculpture installed but says they’ll handle them as the come. He emphasizes the impact this sculpture will have on the community and what it symbolizes.
“This was community driven,” Washburn said. “It adds to the quality of life.”