Volunteers install labyrinth in Arlington

 - Courtesy JAN BAUER
— image credit: Courtesy JAN BAUER

ARLINGTON The labyrinth leaped from the drawing board into the real world Aug. 16-17, but it didn't do so on its own.

Manual labor on the public artwork proposed by city of Arlington Recreation Coordinator Sarah Hegge began at 9 a.m., Aug. 16, when a crew of city employees, Arlington Arts Council members, Lions Club members, Kiwanis and Rotarians arrived behind the Union 76 station on Olympic Avenue, armed with 12.5 tons of rock, 50 yards of sand, 100 yards of topsoil and a mini-tractor.

Nearly two dozen workers contributed during the course of the day, including at least one random passerby.

"He'd just dropped his truck off at the Les Schwab across the street," said Arlington Kiwanis President Jan Bauer of Dave Sherman, an Arlington resident. "He asked us what we were doing, said it looked like a pretty good project, and then asked us if we needed any help. He must have pitched in for about three hours."

Considering the physical demands of the work, this was no small contribution. Even after the city had cleared the site, the work crew still had to lay down a layer of sand, spray-paint the design of the labyrinth, and lay down the heavy slabs of rock within that pattern, in many cases chipping away at rocks with hammers to get them to fit.

The crew's compensations included Subway sandwiches, bottled water and nearby shade trees under which they could take brief breaks, but on one of the warmer days of this summer, even many of the more motivated workers were ready to call it a day sooner than they'd expected.

Bauer was nonetheless impressed by the number of workers who showed up, as well as the dedication they demonstrated.

Even though their goal was "to get as much done as we can" Aug. 16, Hegge conceded at noon that day that it might take a weekend or two longer to complete the project, since they were still laying down slabs, and hadn't yet laid down the topsoil, or hydroseeded it to hold the rocks in place.

For those who prefer to contribute in less strenuous ways, Hegge noted that a donation of $165 earns a contributor a plaque by one of the 13 trees that will ring the labyrinth.

For Kurt McVay, professional glass-blower and president-elect of the Arlington Rotary, working on the labyrinth was almost a zen exercise in meditation.

"It's very rewarding to be able to handle the stones," McVay said. "It's a primitive undertaking in that sense and I can feel quite a bit of energy from the other people working on it. It was frustrating at first, but like my glass artistry, it's a totally engrossing experience. I could do this all day, every day."

Jean Olson, of the Arlington Arts Council, praised Hegge for submitting her proposal, as well as the city of Arlington for providing matching funds. The labyrinth will ultimately cost approximately $7,000 for pavers and $2,000 for trees and community labor.

"We need your ideas," Olson said to readers of The Arlington Times. "It's exciting to see this all come together and it wouldn't have happened without the city's participation. When you have a project this big, it makes a big difference not to have to do it all by yourself."

"Community projects are a great way to get things done," agreed city of Arlington Capital Projects Manager Paul Ellis. "We try to come up with something different every year."

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