Friday, October 15, 2010

Mini-Volcano to be Destroyed 9 Months After First Erupting in St. Helens, Oregon

The shabby gray volcano seemingly appeared out of no where 9 months ago in the heart of the small Oregon town of St Helens.  The volcano, a 6 foot tall gurgling water fountain with surrounding flower bed, was meant to mirror the real volcano of Mount St. Helens which lies within view of the town just 39 miles away across the Oregon/Washington state line. 

The volcano fountain, along with an accompanying sign, were meant to draw attention to the touristy shops and restaurants of the town's riverfront, but immediately the installation was decried as an eyesore and safety hazard.  Additionally, many were critical of the fact that in the rush to utilize state grant money the volcano bypassed getting a formal OK from either St. Helens' arts commission or its city council, and there was hardly any chance for the public to give input.  Now, less than a year later, it has been decided to tear the volcano down.

Built in 2009,  the mini-volcano was paid for with about $15,000 from an Oregon Department of Transportation grant and an additional $1,400 in matching city funds that was part of the conditions of the grant.  Initially, the volcano would erupt water from its summit at regular intervals, but the fountain eventually began malfunctioning.  There were also complaints about teenagers dropping rocks, goldfish, and other things down into the volcano, which were blasted out by the force of the water when it erupted.

The town was divided: some liked the volcano; some hated it, calling it ugly; and some cared less either way.  But at a recent forum of the City Council members voted unanimously to remove the fountain following the recomendation of the arts commision.

The most popular outcome from the removal of the volcano would be to replace it with something that would go through a more formal review and approval process with the involvement of the art commission and city council.  However, doing so would mean that the $14,000 in grant money used to pay for the bulk of the project would have essentially gone to waste.  Also, one of the purposes of the grant was tied to the creation of an artistic sign, so, in order to fulfill the conditions of the grant, the city may forced into replace the volcano with something that has the same price tag affixed to it, but this time all the money would have to come from the town's coffers.  This would mean absorbing the cost to dismantle the fountain and surrounding garden, and another $14,000 to replace it.  One member of the arts council proposed making a fundraiser out of the demolition.  “We should make an event out of it,” she said.

Currently there is no timeline for the volcano to come down.  The next step would be to perform a safety evaluation of the corner and intersection where the volcano is located in order to decide what should replace the fountain once it is removed.



Hey everyone, feel free to comment, but be aware that this is meant to be a fun, educational blog. Comments are moderated for crude language and/or other objectionable material and will be deleted as needed.