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About 12 trail and art enthusiasts attended a community meeting in Waukee on Wednesday evening to see a set of proposed designs for a public art project taking shape at the city’s new Raccoon River Valley Trail head.

David Dahlquist, a senior partner with RDG Planning & Design, and other members of the Dahlquist Art Studio, have been working with the Public Art Committee on plans for a bold piece of art, which they say will become a focal point of the 89-mile long paved trail that passes through parts of Greene, Guthrie and Dallas Counties.

Dahlquist, a former artist-in-residence at the Des Moines Arts Center, unveiled three concepts to the group during the presentation at the Waukee school district’s administrative office building. He said all the concepts help tell the story of Waukee’s past, present and future. Dahlquist said he and his associates, Scott Crawford and Matt Niebuhr, had been thinking a lot about what it means to develop an icon as they prepared for the meeting. “It’s usually a symbolic, sculptural object,” he said. “Could be big. Could be intimate, but imbedded in that symbolism is layers of meaning, and it’s not going to be the same thing for everybody, but it offers a way for you to enter into the story and be engaged by it,” Dahlquist said.

The group warmed to two of the designs, Concept A and Concept C, which integrate lighting and beam-like structures to convey the image of the railroad, calling on the city’s historic connection to the rails. Concept A called for using wind turbines to help generate electricity for lighting.

Some attendees said the electricity lines and poles near the trail head could affect the cosmetics of Concept A. Dahlquist said that was not the case. “I don’t think that they ruin it, I think they’re a given, you just have to react to it and know that it’s part of the condition of the site,” he said.

Cindy DePond of the Waukee Area Arts Council said after the meeting that she appreciated how those concepts use triangles to link it to the city’s historic downtown area called the Triangle. Concept B plotted a series of rock-like sculptures around the trail head, harkening back to the days when the Dallas County community was home to many miners.

Former Mayor Don Bailey commended the designers on their work. “Any of them would be great in my book,” Bailey said.

Dahlquist said he’s focused on making the trail head at 10th and Hickman Road a destination point. “The goal for us is to make it a special place, a fun place where people want to come,” Dahlquist said.

The lighting design is critical to making the project iconic, Dahlquist said. “You know in theater, no matter how great the actors are, if the lighting is no good, the play is no good,”‘ he said.

The group will hold another meeting later this summer to help settle on a design for the project, which will cost an estimated $250,000. The group has already raised around $30,000 from businesses and individuals. The city gave $10,000 to the group to kickstart the design phase earlier this year. Organizers say they want to start construction by the summer of 2014.

The project will be on city land and the design concept must be approved by the Waukee City Council before construction starts.

Jim Miller, a board member of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, said the Public Art Committee would be launching a web site soon to help the public gain information on the project.


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