Washington City Council discusses possible purchase of outdoor art, incoming Mill Creek trailhead

WASHINGTON CITY — Both art and recreation were discussed during parts of the Washington City Council’s workshop meeting Wednesday, which included a consideration of purchasing work from well-known scrap metal sculptor Matt Clark and plans for access to trails within the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve.

Washington City resident Kelli Charlton speaks to the City Council, Washington City, Utah, March 10, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

City Council workshop meetings typically involve more discussion and debate than afforded in regular council meetings since no public hearings or official actions are handled during a workshop meeting. These meetings can be thought of as joint study or planning sessions for council members before they move on to regular meetings where they will put what have learned to action in a vote.

Matt Clark’s Dixie Express sculpture

One discussion Wednesday concerned an offer made to the city by metal sculptor and Washington City resident Matt Clark.

Clark is known for taking pieces of scrap metal and turning them into pieces of art. Adding to his renown is the fact he does this while in a wheelchair, which was the result of an accident when he was a teenager.

In this 2017 file photo, metal sculptor Matt Clark discusses his philosophy of taking broken and discarded materials and making art out of them, St. George, Utah, April 7, 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Washington City Mayor Ken Neilson told the City Council that Clark had offered to sell a sculpture he made of a train locomotive around five years ago for approximately $30,000. The council at the time passed on the offer due to budgetary reasons, the mayor said.

Washington City resident Sherri Tate said the train locomotive has since been added to, resulting in a 35-foot-long train Clark calls the Dixie Express. Each train car is also large enough for small children to climb into, Tate said.

Due to the train growing beyond the main engine, the cost for the sculpture has risen to $120,000, she said.

“We need to get some art into the community,” Tate said.

Her comments reflected the desires of other members of the community to bring more outdoor art to Washington City, similar to neighboring St. George’s year-long Art Around the Corner art show. Many of the pieces featured through Art Around the Corner end up being purchased by the city and county.

Compared to the many sculptures that dot parts of St. George’s downtown area, Washington City is largely vacant of such art pieces.

Matt Clark’s Dixie Express metal sculpture on display in St. George, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of MattClarkSculpture.com, St. George News

“I so feel like this art helps make us more unique,” Tate said.

Cheryl Christensen, a former board member for the Art Around the Corner program, echoed Tate’s sentiments about bringing more art into the city.

“I think it would be great to have that spread into Washington City,” she said.

No action was taken on whether to move forward on the possibility of purchasing Dixie Express, beyond the mayor asking the council to “think about it.”

Mill Creek trailhead

The northern end of Washington City’s Main Street that ends at the border with the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve will be the site of a new trailhead in the near future.

Plans for the construction of the new Mill Creek trailhead – which will connect to the Elephant Arch, Ice House, Mustang Pass and other trails – were discussed Wednesday and met by general approval of council members.

“There’s been a need to have a trailhead there for a long time,” Barry Blake, the city’s leisure services director, told the council.

Layout plan for the new Mill Creek Trailhead in Washington City, Utah | Graphic courtesy of Washington City, St. George News

The parking area will have a gravel surface and be surrounded by fencing or otherwise natural barriers, Blake said. It will also feature benches, restrooms and a horse tie-up.

However, Councilman Doug Ward voiced concerns about the location of fencing. A part of his concern stemmed from the possibility that people will gradually creep beyond the boundaries of the parking lot with their vehicles and encroach on the surrounding wilderness.

Blake said this shouldn’t be an issue once the parking lot and trailhead are built.

The trailhead is being built on land owned by the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, more commonly known as SITLA, which granted the city access to the area through an easement last year.

“It is important to retain this critical access point into the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve to ensure future access as development continues in the area,” city staff said in a summary of the project presented to the council. “Staff has worked with individuals from the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, SITLA and Washington County to ensure the trailhead will meet the needs of residents and visitors.”

The estimated cost of the trailhead and parking lot was not publicly announced as it has yet to go to bid, Blake said, though he added that $50,000 has been granted to the city by Washington County for the project.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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