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Park City gets art donation of elk statues across from McPolin Barn

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Save People Save Wildlife
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(left to right) Artist Bland Hoke and Save People Save Wildlife board members Lorelei Combs, Erin Ferguson, and Tom Farkas pose with one of the new statues.

New statues are set to go up across from the McPolin Barn after the Park City Council accepted a public art donation from Save People Save Wildlife.

The two statues consist of reflective elk silhouettes designed by Jackson Hole-based artist Bland Hoke.

Each elk is 9 feet wide and 9 feet tall, and are designed to show the outline shape of an elk. Steel was used for the skeleton and silhouette.

The nonprofit Save People Save Wildlife was founded in 2015 with the purpose of reducing vehicle-wildlife collisions.

Vice President Lorelei Combs recited a quote from the artist in front of the city council Thursday.

“It’s all about context and how these silhouettes relate to their surrounding environment and local wildlife," Combs said.

"This makes them site-specific art. It is our hope that the council accepts this donation and recognizes the unique benefit of this reflective artwork, which will be visible to drivers during darkness to improve safety for all of the community, visitors, and our wildlife.”

The statues will be placed across from the McPolin Barn along SR-224, which has the fifth highest number of vehicle-wildlife crashes per mile per year of any highway in Utah, according to a 2019 UDOT study. Save People Save Wildlife said the worst section of the highway in particular is the area by the McPolin Farm, where local elk herds cross the street hundreds of times a year.

Park City Councilmember Becca Gerber said she’s seen similar artwork in Jackson, and it has an effect on drivers.

“If you have ever been to Jackson Hole, and you drive between Jackson Hole ski resort and the town, there is a moose cutout along the side of the road and everytime you see it, you can’t help but accidentally hit the brakes because it looks like there’s a moose that’s about to step out into the street," Gerber said.

"And so I think it’s the same concept where at first glance it will appear there is an animal on the side of the road and hopefully encourage people to slow down.”

UDOT, which has jurisdiction over SR-224, reduced the road’s speed limit to 45 mph last year, after working with Summit County and Save People Save Wildlife.

A city spokesperson said the artwork will be installed in the spring after the snow melts.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.