Promoters of St. Peter’s artistic attributes and scenic attractions want to combine efforts to draw tourists to the riverside on the east end of town.

Plans are at the conceptual stage for a sculpture garden highlighting works by the late Paul Granlund and his proteges as well as a tree-top high walkway close to the Minnesota River.

“They are very bold. This would be so incredible for the city,” Community Development Director Russ Wille said as he described the proposed project.

St. Peter City Council members saw the architectural mock-up designs for the first time during a meeting last week.

Wille often drives past the small playground near St. Peter’s Chamber of Commerce office that would be replaced by the proposed Granlund Legacy Park. He said he’s rarely, if ever, seen children there.

“Right now, it’s the site of a under-used neighborhood playground in a part of town that’s used by businesses and the chamber office.”

The city would provide the land, maintenance, insurance and pay the lighting’s electrical costs, and The Arts Center of Saint Peter would manage the site’s sculpture garden, Wille said.

Concepts for the proposed park with the raised walkway were revealed July 6 during a celebration for the Arts Center of Saint Peter’s 40th anniversary party. Art Center Director Ann Rosenquist Fee has participated in the planning from its start.

“Part of the city’s legacy is Paul Granlund’s work. When it comes to public art for St. Peter, why miss out on an opportunity like that?” Fee said recalling discussions about the sculpture garden.

“A bunch of local people have come up to me and said, ‘I don’t know much about art, but I do know I like Paul Granlund’s work,” Fee said.

Granlund was Gustavus Adolphus College’s sculptor in residence between 1971 and 1996 after graduating from the college in 1952. He died in 2003, but several of his more than 650 sculptures remain on display on campus.

The proposed sculpture garden in Levee Park would bring more of the namesake’s work to the public, along with sculptures inspired by him, including by Kasota artist David Hyduke, whose works have been featured on the 2012 and 2013 CityArt Sculpture Walks in Mankato.

Wille said the work on the project would rely heavily on private donations. It’s completion could take years because St. Peter has several projects in the works such as the new pavilion in Minnesota Square Park.

PLAAD principal architect Matt Byers offered pro bono services for his schematic concepts for the elevated walkway that would provide panoramic views of the river valley. PLAAD is an architecture and design office based in Minnesota.

Byers met with construction engineers earlier this week and will soon be able to provide a good estimate on the cost of the project.

He and his family moved to St. Peter about five years ago. They’ve enjoyed exploring the town’s history and its riverside location. Byers teaches urban planning as a University of Minnesota adjunct faculty member and has brought students to St. Peter to look for solutions to tourism problems resulting from a major highway running through downtown.

When he was recently approached by Wille about shepherding the search for a suitable sculpture garden site, Byers was ready with a reply.

The small riverside park would be a prime location to showcase; however, he had another suggestion. “A sculpture garden would be fantastic, but I think we ought to go bigger,” Byers said. “Why don’t we go for something meaningful that would set St. Peter apart from other cities?”

The town’s earliest development was near the river, along Front Street. As St. Peter expanded to the west, south and north, residents lost touch with their connection to the Minnesota River, Byers said. “We barely know it’s there.”

People strolling along the waterway would only have to turn their heads to view some of St. Peter’s historic structures, such as the recently renovated Highway 99 bridge, he said.

“The walkway would provide a wonderful return to the river.”

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