Monday, September 6, 2010

Eagle statue may return to Scottsdale Airpark

Courtesy of John Meyer "One With the Eagle" as it originally stood in the Scottsdale Airpark.

A huge bronze eagle statue that welcomed visitors to the Scottsdale Airpark for nearly 20 years has been laying in storage, its wings clipped by construction work on Scottsdale Road and the Scottsdale Quarter shopping and office complex.

But two Airpark business advocates are leading a drive to create a park with desert landscaping on roughly 3 acres northeast of Scottsdale and Thunderbird roads and install the statue, titled "One With the Eagle," as the centerpiece. Scottsdale's public-art program owns the statue, and the city owns the land, which until this summer had been used as a maintenance yard.

John Meyer, designated broker with Airpark Property Specialists LLC, believes the corner is destined for much more.

"This is a frog-turning-into-a-prince story," he said. "The maintenance yard is going to be a botanical garden."

Meyer and Laureen Leston, principal with Airpark's Business Development Resources, envision the park as a gateway to the Airpark and a destination in itself. The 18-foot-tall statue and its 6-foot base would anchor a miniature version of Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden, with desert plants and an information kiosk. A giant compass design, created with rocks, would serve as a rainwater-collection basin and help point the way to the Scottsdale Airport runway.

At a planning meeting earlier this summer, artist Pat Mathiesen called the plans exciting and "more than I could ever hope for."

Mathiesen created "One With the Eagle," a figure resembling a Native American eagle dancer, with wings for arms that are reaching for the sky. Airpark and airport business leaders commissioned her work as part of a campaign in the late 1980s to install a monument at the airport entrance.

The bronze was installed in the median of Butherus Drive east of Scottsdale Road, where the ring it holds framed the McDowell Mountains. At its dedication in 1989, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater said he had landed at airports all over the country and called the sculpture "the finest I have ever seen."

It was removed in early 2008 for storage. The new location on Thunderbird Road is seen as safer and would allow the statue's ring to again frame the McDowells.

For months, Meyer and Leston have been meeting with property owners, city parks and public-art employees, Mayor Jim Lane and local businesses to push the project forward. Desierto Verde, a desert-landscaping company, has drafted a site plan that includes paloverde trees and gardens of cactus, yuccas and agaves.

Meyer and Leston have divided the project into two phases. The first would re-install "One With the Eagle" and landscape a small area around it. The second phase would complete the park, with seating, a greater range of plants and a small pavilion to shade visitors.

The public-art program has budgeted $10,000 for the installation, Associate Director Margaret Bruning said. Meyer estimates the entire project would cost about $200,000, though much of it could be done with in-kind donations of goods and services.

With the city's budget tight, Meyer and Leston know that most of the money will have to be raised from the private sector.

"Historically, the Airpark and the airport are up to the task, and many have come forward already," Meyer said.

Besides funding, the park plan has other issues to deal with:

• Because the site is at the southern end of the airport runway, the plan needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Meyer said the FAA prefers the park be designed for small groups of visitors instead of with the amphitheater proposed earlier.

• Paying for long-term maintenance is undecided. Meyer thinks businesses and property owners could strike an agreement with the city.

• Parking and pedestrian access is being considered. Scottsdale plans a park-and-ride lot on the southeastern corner of Scottsdale and Thunderbird roads, opposite the proposed park.

• "One With the Eagle" would be part of the name, but whether the rest refers to a park, botanical garden or sanctuary is to be determined.

Bruning said the program hopes to win FAA and Development Review Board approval of the installation by year-end.

"One With the Eagle" is a "beautiful example" of Scottsdale citizens' commitment to the arts, she said.

"It was the main entry marker for the Airpark for years, and we're really pleased to bring it back," Bruning said.

by Jane Larson The Arizona Republic Sept. 2, 2010 09:47 AM

Eagle statue may return to Scottsdale Airpark

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