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10/25/2011 11:16:00 AM
Seat of contention
City covertly removes controversial park bench
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily CourierPrescott College student Kristin Anthony meditates Tuesday morning next to the tree where a bench she built once stood  in Granite Creek Park. The bench was taken down late Monday night by the City of Prescott.
Matt Hinshaw/The Daily Courier
Prescott College student Kristin Anthony meditates Tuesday morning next to the tree where a bench she built once stood in Granite Creek Park. The bench was taken down late Monday night by the City of Prescott.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Prescott College senior Kristin Anthony earlier this month sits on the bench she built at Granite Creek Park.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Prescott College senior Kristin Anthony earlier this month sits on the bench she built at Granite Creek Park.
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - Prescott College student Kristin Anthony knew things were not going well in her negotiations with the City of Prescott over the bench she created in Granite Creek Park.

Still, she said she never expected the scene she found when she arrived at the downtown-area park on Tuesday morning.

"I was the first one here, and I saw that the bench was gone," Anthony said, standing near the bare area where the bench once stood. "I thought I was dreaming."

The community's park bench saga ended abruptly sometime Monday night/Tuesday morning, when City of Prescott crews removed the bench that had been the source of controversy in the community for the better part of the past month.

A city press release Tuesday morning stated: "With the city having been notified of ... the withdrawal of the modified design submitted on Oct. 21, substantial variation between the original design sketch and what was built, and in the absence of any credible evidence that a structure meeting all city requirements will be achieved, the bench has been removed this date."

City officials are saying little about the decision-making process that led up to the bench removal, or specifically when the demolition occurred.

City Manager Craig McConnell said late Tuesday that Parks and Recreation employees removed the bench early Tuesday morning, before the park opened. Eyewitnesses say the bench was gone before 6:30 a.m.

"We really don't have any statement other than what was in the press release," McConnell said after Tuesday's Prescott City Council meeting.

Noting that the park bench "was discussed at length at several meetings," McConnell said, "It is clear that the Parks and Recreation department operates the parks system, and (Parks and Recreation) removed the bench."

Anthony acknowledges that things got a little muddled after a Friday meeting between her and former Parks and Recreation Director Debbie Horton.

After the meeting, in comments to the media, Anthony had said the two sides had taken a step toward a resolution.

But on Tuesday morning, Anthony said, "That meeting didn't go as smoothly as I made it sound. I was really bullied into that proposal."

Anthony now says she was feeling overwhelmed by the pressure, and she ended up endorsing a plan - which she said did not come from her - to remove all of the existing symbols and designs from the bench, and replace them with a more abstract design.

"I felt so wrong about it," Anthony said Tuesday morning. "It didn't feel right, but I didn't know what to do."

That, coupled with the fact that she needed to go to Massachusetts to visit her ill father, led Anthony to meet with a group of bench supporters over the weekend.

On Monday, that group met with acting Parks and Recreation Director Joe Baynes and delivered a statement that read, "The responsibility of the mosaic bench project has, of necessity, been transferred to a citizens action committee, which will henceforth be responsible for all activities related to bench."

The statement added: "All previous proposals submitted on Miss Anthony's behalf are to be considered null and void."

Members of the committee say Baynes refused to take the statement. Baynes was unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

While Prescott officials were saying little on Tuesday, Ryan Gates, the landscape consultant who helped Anthony with the bench plans, maintains that he and city employees did all they could to help make the bench project successful.

"There were a lot of things she didn't listen to me on," Gates said Tuesday of Anthony's bench construction. "It really was about functionality and safety. I told her she needed to set the tiles level, but she didn't listen."

Gates, who said he got involved when he heard Anthony needed advice on the bench construction, suggests that the arts community got too involved in the project, and ultimately made the bench non-functional. "It turned into an art project rather than a functional bench," he said.

Although he said Anthony "worked hard" on the project, Gates said he told her that she needed to "fence it or fix it."

Even so, local artist R. Wall, one of the bench supporters, said the bench removal is another example of the city trying to "remove opinions and views that don't coincide with the City Council."

Wall compared it to a 2010 "cease and desist" action filed against him over his lack of a contractor's license to do mural art, after controversy arose over his "Mural Mice" group's artwork at Miller Valley Elementary School.

On Tuesday morning, members of the bench committee called the Prescott Police Department to report a theft of the bench, and three police cars arrived at the scene.

Jean Lutz, who served as Anthony's mentor on the project and fired the tile symbols for the bench, said the police officers refused to take a report on the matter.

"They said it isn't a criminal offense," Lutz said, adding that the city reportedly took the dismantled bench to a storage lot, although the bench supporters had yet to learn where the materials were.

Bench supporters say they are planning another get-together at the bench site from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Related Stories:
• Benchmark achievement: Students recreate torn-down public art piece - with Kristin Anthony's help
• Top Stories of 2011: #5 - Public Art's Struggle: Bench's construction, destruction fuels debate
• Park bench controversy: Prescott Council doesn't take accusations sitting down
• Letter: Bench removal a sign of bad things to come
• Letter: Courier needs to focus on real news
• Letter: City wrong to destroy participatory bench project
• Park bench removal continues to raise questions
• Lopas resigns from council, citing bench removal as 'last straw'
• Letter: Keep Prescott's controversial park bench
• Granite Creek Park bench revision plan removes symbols, designs
• City, artist meet to discuss park bench design
• The Great Granite Creek Park Bench Controversy: Community art or safety hazard?

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Article comment by: Clarification is the key...


And if you believe that Miss Anthony and the Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee haven't deceived, mislead, and out-and-out lied to the community, then you deserve to have your "art" removed for cause also.

Posted: Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

@ Willie Baker

Yes, it's almost like the "photojournalist" staged the picture for that type of emotional response. But, the staff of the Courier wouldn't practice such things to sell papers. Would they?

Posted: Tuesday, November 01, 2011


If you buy that posted statement as the real reason for the covert desecration of that work-in-process, then you deserve the opaque band of g-o-boys that are known as City Council.

The real reason is that the influencers can't abide the revelation to the world that Prescott has diversity, period.

Posted: Monday, October 31, 2011
Article comment by: Willie Baker

This picture of "meditating" at the site of the bench strikes me as odd. It's like someone showing reverence and sorrow at a memorial for fallen soldiers. Sorry it all didn't work out in a fair manner, but it's not like someone lost their life.

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011
Article comment by: Clarification is the key...

@ Karl Harshman

If you wish to know why the bench was removed...and not from the posters can read the City's official statement here:

Posted: Friday, October 28, 2011
Article comment by: Karl Harshman

I am curious about all the commenters who mentioned that this bench was exteremely dangerous to put out in a public area. I saw the photos and have to note that similar structures are in cities around the world without any great safety threat.

In the various articles, letters and city government documents I have not see a statement explaining exactly what safety standard is being violated.

And no, I am not asking people to comment here about their own personal opinions as to the safety. Thank you for your concern though. I am asking how the structure was condemned as such a severe safety threat without much explanation of the actual physical danger of it. It seems to me that the safety danger should be documented in a public document (ie. not in this comment stream).

Thank you for letting me share my observation.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Ken Jones

Some of the artwork offended some citizens and they complained, the creator was unavailable for modifications so the city did what it needed to do. Keep political and religious views to out of our parks and no one will be offended. Certain sensabilities need to be recognized and respected in a metropolis of many beliefs.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Tree Supporter

@Benches Do Not Damage Root Systems

There are pictures on Kristen's Facebook page of the excavation for the bench. A trench was dug to the footprint of the bench about eight inches deep and all the roots were cut and fill installed. When the tree dies it will not be from the removal precess or the tree mourning the loss of the bench, it will be because of the bench. I've kept copies of the pictures for the "committee" when they blame the City of Prescott.

And by the way ... Good job Joe Baynes, you did the right thing for the tree and the City.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Benches Do Not Damage Root Systems Heavy Machines, Powerful Blades and Scrapers Do!

There are thousands of like benches all over the world surrounding the trunks of trees, protecting the roots. Benches do not hurt the roots of the trees. Heavy, earth ripping, dirt moving machines do! Driving very heavy back hoes back and forth across the roots, roughly scraping the protective soil, breaking the roots apart with the hydraulically powered backhoe shovels and blade does and will destroy the root system. Hopefully Joe Baynes checked out the proper way to use heavy equipment around delicate root systems. I am sure that Joe Baynes being the head of Parks and Recreation has extensive background education in the growth and maintenance of our valuable trees and took this into account as he was ripping the bench off of the root structure with his machines. It may have been a bit hard to see those delicate roots being so dark out at 4:00a.m. in the morning. But Joe didn’t want to inconvenience the patrons of the park or put them in any danger.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: It's Worth Repeating

Tom, with friends like you and Wall, Miss Anthony doesn't need enemies. You folks took advanatge of her. She may not know it yet, but she'll figure it out. The "Committee" (boy, you guys sure take yourselves seriously don't you)
attempt to blackmail the city blew up in their faces. Very appropriately.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: open book

"The Bench" is long gone as the topic of this issue. The policy set by the City of Prescott to remove by night and secrecy those things its leaders do not like is now out in the open. We, the people of Prescott, must now decide if this policy is one we will accept or one we will fight against.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: You're Kidding

@ Tom Von Deck

Let’s get real here. The committee was never looking for compromise but rather for the city to compromise towards your wishes. I watched all the YouTube videos and what I saw was a bunch of people trying real hard to get their way and try and find words to twist. I must have heard the same questions asked a hundred different ways and my hat goes off to Debbie Horton for keeping her composure and constantly bringing the committee back to the same point. People kept asked “is it the symbols, is it the design, is it the structure….? And Debbie kept giving you the same answer, No, It’s because it doesn’t look like the original drawing…. Which part of that did you not understand? You went all in on a hand and you lost. Debbie Horton told you guys point blank that unless a compromise could be reached then it would be taken down. I must have heard her say that five or six times but you failed to listen and now want to plead ignorance. The bottom line is that you tried to take artistic license when there was no room for that and it didn’t work. Your committee holds the blame in how this transpired. Parks and Recreation tried to help you save face and do what was initially supposed to be done and you forced their hand. Quit trying to play the victim because the way I see it, you’re the perpetrator who got caught….

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Gus Patrick

Hey Tom, I have read the statement (dated Monday, October 24, 2011) from the it, the committee stated, "Miss Anthony is long past due returning to her home to fulfill familial obligations. Therefore, Miss Anthony has transferred all responsibility for the completion of the bench to the Granite Creek Park Mosaic Bench Committee effective immediately"

The City, in their response statement (dated Tuesday, October 25, 2011) said, "Ms. Anthony, who submitted the original proposal and caused the bench to be built, is the sole party responsible for the outcome of her project...the City of Prescott does not grant unlimited license to any party, public or private, for construction within its parks"

So, in a written statement from your committee, the City was informed that Miss Anthony abandoned her project, had relinquished herself from the completion and resolution of it. Therefore, the City did not have to recognize your committee because the responsibility to complete the project was non-transferable.

Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

I love how insistence on written guidelines to follow, here in Prescott, can be twisted into "threatening". The most threatening thing about this whole process has been the city's refusal to put anything in writing. The bench committee that Kristin asked us to form on Sunday existed for the purpose of finding out exactly what the written specifications are and following them. And, if at all possible, this compromise would have saved as much as the content as possible. The city still refused to make a compromise and provide written instructions to follow, and its response was a covert destruction of the bench. How many times have you heard a lawyer say, "get it in writing?" Is this threatening? Cowards who can only work behind closed doors and government officials who take the rights of the people seriously probably have a very hard time honoring such requests. It is now proven who was willing to compromise and who wasn't. The city made its stand.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Irving Zissman

Who cares. Really? This is a front page headline story? I find it hard to believe that all those leaves fell off the tree onto the ground over one night. Notice all the trees in the background are still green? Investigative reporting at its best and a council member resigns over it. Wow.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Ray Cage

The bench was and is beautiful. All who participated in the construction had a good time. Structurally the bench was designed well and allowed for drainage.
And we citizens can just bare on through this, and when you see the current Mayor or council members. Yell, loud "Hey Boss can I shine your shoes Boss Marlin?
How about you getting over it andreini ! and I did not vote for any of the"Bosses".
Public art is an economic plus for a Prescott that is economically tanking.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Blair faith Project

Debbie Horton! How can you bear to leave all this behind?

Good luck in the future, you will be missed!

(trust us, you all will in time..........)

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Tom Von Deck

To Richey Hope: That's a great quote. This is all a "learning moment" for Prescott as a whole. When people don't know how to coexist, things will just happen to nudge us along just a little bit toward harmony even if it gets worse before it gets better. The heart of the issue here is coexistence. The mayor recently said that only property owners have a right to use city parks. Is this an attitude of coexistence? No. This whole (embarrassing) process is a purification. We are all learning what it takes to coexist in Everybody's Hometown, where hopefully, some day, everybody will have an equal voice.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Have we become this materialistic?

Really, there are so many life issues out there.
Some people are mourning over a park bench?
We have a son & daughter fighting in iraq for our freedoms. Please make better use of your liberties!

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: What is the deal with the pathetic, heart rending photo of Miss Anthony?

Weeping? Praying? Meditating? Putting on a little show for us? Tree looks much better, and happier, with fallen Autumn leaves around it. And will have a longer, healthier life without her glitzy cement doughnut strangling it. Who says 200 people put stuff on the thing? R?

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: WERG GHTU

A night crew clearing out the bench cost us all tax dollars! As a taxpayer, I am demanding the city send the bill to Ms. Anthony to reimburse the taxpayers for this mess, and if she refuses to pay up, the city needs to take her to court pronto. We The People demand this!

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Eehgnoor Amos

Reasons why Kristin Anthony should not get her Master's Degree:
She cannot follow instructions
She is conniving and dishonest (she got others to do her graduate thesis work)
She is manipulative (she twists around what others tell her)
She has no talent
She still does not understand the permitting process, which would be a part of the Degree
She never learned the political process
She did not accomplish what she said she would do (create a Tibetan community bench)
she is spoiled and acts like she never graduated from high school.

Basically, she failed at all conditions prescribed for receiving a graduate degree.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Richey Hope

To Ms. Kristin Anthony and the 200 people who tried to give a wonderful thing to Granite Park, I suggest you take to heart this quote from Kahlil Gibran:

"I have learned silence from the talkative,
tolerance from the intolerant
and kindness from the unkind.
I should not be ungrateful to those teachers."

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Enough Enough

They need to go. A recall needs to occur for Hanna and Blair at minimum, with Lamerson and Kuykendall bringing up the rear. They should be ashamed of their behavior. We should be ashamed they are representing us.

I find it impossible to believe we could not come up with 4 conservatives to fill these seats who are capable of acting with the professionalism and class, these folks so obviously lack. They have become a liability to Prescott and the Republican Party...and its time for them to go.

Posted: Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Article comment by: Carol Paul

you city officials are LOSERS period. You have NO dignity, even less responsibility and even less ability! Shame on all of you. Good on you Miss Lopas for resigning. You all did yourselves a huge dis-service to this is time for all of you to leave office. You are LOSERS.

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