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Blog art croppedBy Jim McCloskey

A couple weeks back, I wrote about an arrangement that enabled a pool to reopen through an unusual partnership between a school and a pool-lacking YMCA (click here). Since then, I’ve come across another sort of arrangement that will restore an iconic watershape and keep it in great shape for years to come.

The item in question is one I covered in a Travelogue a couple years ago (click here). As was reported more recently at startribune.com, “Loring Park’s dandelion-shaped fountain has been the backdrop for countless engagement proposals and wedding photos in downtown Minneapolis throughout the decades. Now, it’s getting a much-needed restoration.

“During the summer,” the article continued, “water leaks from the fountain’s basin. The bricks below are cracked and broken. Sometimes, if a mechanical component malfunctions, it can’t even be turned on.”

Trouble is, the fountain was low on the park’s priority list for repairs; after all, the waterfeature was still operational despite its occasional difficulties. But government sluggishness led two local groups to organize and raise money not only for the basic, essential repairs, but also for some system upgrades and sprucing up the surrounding plaza.

And where a drab plywood box now covers the structure through the area’s long, harsh winters, it will now get a more artistic replacement through a competition among local arts students that will make the space attractive no matter the time of year. The cost of all this attention is projected at more than $1 million – a heavy lift for volunteers!

The two groups raising the funds – Citizens for a Loring Park Community and Friends of Loring Park – want to start the renovation work right away, and I can’t blame them: The promised improvements will revitalize a whole section of the park for years to come. And while park officials are not quite as engaged, there’s still hope the work can be completed by 2021.

This story reminds me of the fashion house of Fendi paying millions toward restoration of Rome’s Trevi Fountain and others situations in which local companies or civic groups have intervened when cash-strapped municipalities can’t muster the will or wherewithal to take care of monuments that both locals and tourists hold dear.

I’m saddened that this has become a familiar tale, because I’m a firm believer that these monuments and attractions are part of the public trust and should have no problem rising more quickly to the top of priority lists in their communities. I mean, isn’t it all about self-interest? Isn’t it true that where tourists in particular show up, dollars tend to flow all around?

Be that as it may, I’m encouraged that local citizens had the gumption to get involved in defending a shared Minneapolis treasure. And this sort of community uprising is definitely a “portable” concept – one that can be applied anywhere around the globe – and doesn’t necessarily have to reach beyond immediate system repairs in the way folks in Minneapolis are attempting.

All that these municipal fountains, waterfeatures and pools need is a little love to make it through to brighter tomorrows. After a generation in which too many of these resources have been hit by wrecking balls once they’ve run into operational trouble, it’s about time for towns and cities to appreciate what these watershapes mean, how intricately they are woven into the fabric of the community and how damaging their loss is to a local sense of joy, continuity and legacy.

It’s a big job. I’m heartened to see the citizens of Minneapolis step up and insist on something being done!

For the full story on community support for the Loring Park fountain, click here.

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