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For week ended January 09, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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Summarized by Kent Larsen

Fate of Joseph Smith Sphinx still in doubt
Deseret News 5Jan00 A4
By Alan Edwards: Deseret News staff writer

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- The Gilgal Garden, a quirky Salt Lake sculpture garden filled with folk art created for and by LDS bishop and mason Thomas Child, may have been saved, but a nonprofit group that has been trying to get Salt Lake City to accept ownership may end up with it.

The group, known as the Friends of Gilgal Garden, has raised $600,000 of the $780,000 needed to purchase the garden, under an option that expires next week. It had planned to then donate the garden to the city, which would have to spend about $8,000 a year to maintain it as part of the city park system. But on Tuesday the City Council had other ideas. While it agreed to accept the garden, it decided to take ownership only temporarily, giving the garden back to the Friends of Gilgal Garden after six months.

"I'm disappointed," said Julia Robertson, a member of the group. "It's not enough." The group fears that enthusiasm for the garden will wane in the future, and the garden will be neglected, as it is now.

The garden is in the center of a block in downtown Salt Lake City. It was constructed by Child between 1945 and 1963 and includes sculptures that are unlike those anywhere else. Among the more notable are a sphinx with the face of Joseph Smith and paving stones engraved with obscure LDS scriptures. "This is not a typical Mormon guy. He was a real free thinker," says artist David Sucec of Child.

The City Council feared that the cost of maintaining the garden would be too high. Councilman Keith Christensen said that the Council didn't want another donation like the City's Tracy Aviary. "(The aviary) has been a great thing, but to us it's been a black hole financially . . . " he said. "If there's a way to do this without this becoming a city park, I would prefer that."

The Friends plan to raise a total of $800,000 to $1 million for the purchase as well as future programming and maintenance. $400,000 of that has been pledged by Salt Lake County, on the condition that the City take ownership. Other donors, including the LDS Church and area charitable foundations, have also made this a requirement. Unfortunately, the City's plan to hold the garden for six months may not satisfy their conditions, and kill the sale.

Still, the city may be persuaded to reconsider. At least newly-elected mayor Rocky Anderson is behind the City's ownership, "I think the city ought to embrace this opportunity to own, in perpetuity, this tremendous property," he told the Deseret News.

See also:

Can Gilgal Be Saved? Salt Lake City Weekly 25Nov99 A4 By Christy Karras Time may be running out to preserve one of Utah's weirdest wonders.


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