A fallen Riverfront Park butterfly needs a lift.
Blustery winds about a month ago sent the Expo ‘74 landmark crashing to the ground. The metal and mesh butterfly has been there ever since, waiting for the Parks Department to decide its fate.
Fixing the giant blue butterfly and its ailing - but still airborne - yellow counterpart could cost nearly $15,000.
The Park Board today plans to discuss what to do with the weatherbeaten relics.
“While these landmarks certainly add character to the landscape, they neither produce revenue for the park, nor represent the natural beauty of the landscape,” wrote Riverfront Park Director Hal McGlathery in a recent memo to the Park Board.
Their importance to Riverfront is a “community judgment that the Park Board should consider,” said McGlathery.
In the days of Expo ‘74 - the world’s fair that prompted development of Riverfront - five brightly colored butterflies marked the entrance gates, said Steve Clark. A Park Board member and architect, Clark helped design the ‘74 fair and, after it closed, Riverfront Park.
During Expo ‘74, a vinyl-coated fabric covered the butterflies’ metal frames. The 40-foot sculptures twirled, their wings fluttering with the wind.
At least one fell over during the fair because the “air pressure generated was too great for them to sustain,” Clark said. The fabric later was changed to a mesh material, which made the butterflies more stable.
There’s “a lot of nostalgia” attached to the butterflies, but justifying the cost of repairs could be difficult, said Clark, who favors saving them.
Just getting a crane into Riverfront to take them down would cost about $5,000.
The Park Board could ask the nonprofit Park & Recreation Fund to pay the bill, an alternative that wouldn’t involve taxpayers’ money, said Craig Butz, Riverfront operations director.
Board members also could decide to take the money out of the park’s general operating budgets or ask the City Council to pay for repairs.
“They were real symbols of the fair,” said Mayor Jack Geraghty of the butterflies. “They just don’t deal with wind very well.”
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “What’s your opinion.” What do you think about the downed butterfly sculptures in Riverfront Park? Should these venerable reminders of Expo ‘74 be restored? Or should they be hauled to the scrap heap? Let us know by calling Cityline at 458-8800 on a Touch-Tone phone, and press 9666. Cityline is a free service, but normal charges apply for longdistance calls to Spokane. Leave a name and daytime phone number with your message. A reporter may call for a story in a future edition of The Spokesman-Review.