Archive for Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Eudora could be trail’s end for covered wagon sculpture

November 21, 2001

Once again, Kansans may see a covered wagon while traveling across the plains. If things work out, two Eudorans will bring a sculpture to a patch of land between Douglas County Road 442 and K-10 highway.

The sculpture, now in storage, once graced a Kansas tourism office in Olathe. With the tourism center's closing the state can offer the sculpture to a city or other interested entities. If Eudora isn't chosen, the community could also have the opportunity to acquire a replica.

"It's kind of in the beginning state," said Leo Lauber, who along with Kenneth von Achen is working to bring the sculpture to Eudora.

Lauber said the sculpture, created in relief (meaning one side is flat and must rest against a wall) is about 14 feet high and 30 feet long. It depicts a covered wagon pulled by oxen.

"It's very impressive," he said.

The Lawrence artist who created the sculpture, Elden Tefft, is perhaps best-known, locally anyway, for his sculptures at Kansas University, where he taught for 40 years. Tefft created the Jayhawk perched in front of Strong Hall and the image of Moses in front of Smith Hall's burning bush stained glass window.

Lauber said he and von Achen think the think the triangle of land between the two roads would be a perfect spot for the sculpture.

"This is something high," Lauber said. "You can see five miles down 10 Highway."

By November 29, a committee of officials with the state tourism office will decide which of about eight cities and entities will get the sculpture. The state will offer the piece for free, meaning the city or entity that acquires it will be responsible for the cost of taking it down, transporting, and putting up the sculpture, all of which could run about $60,000.

Tefft and Merlyn Brown, the artist's business manager, plan to offer a reproduction to communities who miss out.

Brown said he was looking into federal grant money from the Department of Transportation, which leaves the community to pick up between 20 and 30 percent of the tab. Such a grant could ultimately lead to a larger $250,000 project by 2004.

From the direction of the Eudora City Council, Mayor Ron Conner signed a letter of support to bring the sculpture to Eudora at the Nov. 13 meeting, but the council has pledged no money at this time.

The relief sculpture will need a wall for mounting anyway, and Brown said he'd like to see additional features, like a wall in the shape of the state with fiber optic lines tracing the state's pioneer trails, posted information about pioneer Kansas, and maybe a statue of Paschal Fish.

"That seems like a big part of the story of Eudora," Brown said.

The sculpture, which could be seen before arriving at the exit, could boost Eudora's image and tourism, Brown said.

"I feel like we could put a nice project together for Eudora," Brown said. "Quite frankly, it needs it. It's quite easy to drive by."

Something eye-catching, like the sculpture could capture commuter traffic on K-10 as well as those travelers who are increasingly using the highway as a means to travel east-west across the state, Brown said.

"It's a lifetime sign rather than a billboard," he said. "It would be money well-spent."

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