Almost 40 years after it was installed to honor the nation’s bicentennial, Burnsville’s Bicentennial Garden fountain is showing its age.
It leaks, it’s not handicap accessible and the sundial can’t keep time.
The fieldstone fountain — which some have said looks like a pile of rocks — has been the site of myriad graduation, wedding and other celebratory photo shoots. Crabapple trees blossom on the perimeter in the spring. Other trees provide shade, making it a serene place to sit among the flowers and grasses and meditate, chat with friends or just listen to the wind whistle through the branches.
It was the first piece of public art in Burnsville and it’s become a city landmark well worth preserving, according to the city’s Parks and Natural Resources Commission and the City Council. The council voted unanimously Aug. 3 to spend $165,000 on the first phase of rehab for the fountain at the corner of 130th Street and Nicollet Avenue.
The parks commission talked about what that would entail at its July 20 meeting. The first issue: Replace the leaky plumbing. Parks staff has to refill the fountain at least once a week because it is losing so much water.
Unfortunately, the plumbing is inside the fountain so the entire structure must be taken apart to reach the pipes. Todd Halunen, a consultant hired by the city, told the commission the hope is that many if not most of the fieldstone boulders in the fountain can be reused. Once it’s rebuilt, the pump would be placed outside the fountain, where it could be more easily repaired in case of future problems.
The two stairs leading to the fountain would be removed and the sidewalk extended, making it compliant with the 25-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act. The sundial, now mostly in shade, would be moved to a sunny spot and recalibrated.
The landscaping would be refreshed. In recent years, the plants, flowers and grasses have been planted and tended by volunteers from the Sweet Sioux Garden Club.
Commissioners recommended planting fewer annuals and more perennials, while still ensuring that there are blooming flowers and color for the entire growing season. They said they hope new landscaping also will discourage visitors — adults and children — from wading and playing in the small pool at the base of the fountain.
“We’ve stopped short of fencing off the fountain,” Parks Director Terry Schultz told the commission. It’s not practical, he said, and “I’m not sure you could put a fence up high enough to deter folks.”
Construction of the mechanical aspects of the fountain could start this fall, with landscaping changes installed next spring, the commission said.
The fountain’s fieldstone is meant to be reminiscent of Burnsville’s farming heritage. It was built with private donations, a city match and volunteers. The money for the repairs will come from the 2015 budget for parks capital improvements.