Archive for Tuesday, November 28, 2006

River project work falls behind schedule

November 28, 2006

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— A $20.6 million beautification project at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers is more than two months behind schedule but remains on budget.

The project, which began in May 2005, had been expected to be done in October but is about 75 days behind schedule. It is now projected to open to the public in early spring, with a formal dedication set for May 18.

The project's centerpiece, the Keeper of the Plains statue, remains majestically perched atop a rock outcropping behind the Mid-America All-Indian Center. Its pedestal is complete, and the flagstone plaza at its base is almost finished.

Work on two suspension bridges that will connect riverbank pathways to the site of artist Blackbear Bosin's statue has yet to be done. Crews began attaching cables between the support towers and bridge deck last week.

"The bridges are just going to be gorgeous," said Stan Breitenbach, special projects coordinator for the city of Wichita. "I think the public is really going to be surprised when we turn the lights on this at night."

The delay has been blamed on defective concrete bridge decks that had to be recast.

Observation plazas near Veterans Memorial Park are complete. A new sidewalk and limestone support walls extend along the riverbank below the Westar Energy building.

Artwork and descriptive plaques remain to be installed on two "interpretive walls" shading the plaza.

"The interpretive walls will have a series of artifacts that will be built depicting objects of the Plains Indians," said Chris Brunner, a sculptor working on the project. "Graphic granite panels will explain their lifestyle, why they chose this place as sacred, their relationship with the buffalo, their relationship with the land."

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