Exactly one month ago this weekend, local artist Christine Dewancker was on hand for the official opening of the St. Thomas Elevated Park.
Her imaginative installation, The Faraway Nearby, could the seen in the distance at the west end of the Michigan Central Railroad bridge.
The 11-piece sculpture had previously been on
display at Ontario Place in Toronto and the plan at its new venue in St. Thomas was to have it spread about 30 feet wide and stretch 120 feet to the western entrance to Canada’s only elevated park.
At the Sept. 11 opening of the park in the sky, Dewancker noted, “I’m really, really pleased to be a part of this historic project and I know all of the work that has gone into creating something like this and everybody should be really proud.”
The plan, according to On Track St. Thomas director Serge Lavoie, is to have the installation fully wired for lighting although it likely would not be activated until later this year or possibly next spring.
“It depends on getting a solar panel system up there and we haven’t managed to pull that together yet.”
Well, it seems not everyone takes pride in the park and the expansive sculpture imagineered by Dewancker.
And, as for lighting Dewancker’s inspirational artwork, well that is literally up in the air.
Over a two-day period, her creation was the target of senseless vandalism which extended to the newly laid concrete pathway at the park’s west end.
Numerous concrete blocks that support the lights were spray painted, with the black paint soaking into them.
“We’re heartbroken, but determined to restore the sculpture and take measures to ensure that future acts of vandalism have less impact,” a Facebook posting advises.
When you enter the park, signage clearly notes it is open year-round from dawn to dusk.
St. Thomas Police have been approached to increase surveillance when the park is closed for the day and anyone found atop the bridge outside of those hours will be charged with trespassing.
Out of necessity, surveillance equipment will be installed shortly to document trespassing incidents.
Visitors to the park are encouraged to contact police if they spot any inappropriate activity.
“At the official opening Lavoie observed, “We are steeped in natural beauty all around us.”
Tragically this past weekend, that beauty has been tarnished by the destructive acts of an individual or group of people blind to the panorama afforded visitors to the park.
On that glorious late summer afternoon, St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston best summed up the reality of that opening celebration.
“Can you imagine, we are standing on somebody’s dream. Somebody said this is possible and in St. Thomas it was.”
The ugly black paint wielded by vandals cannot be allowed to diminish the marvel of that dream.
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