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Vergas architect involved in planning for Wadena tornado memorial

Mim Maas presented plans for a tornado memorial garden at Fink Park by the swimming pool to the Wadena City Council Tuesday.

The council accepted the recommendation from the Park Board and allowed the project to proceed.

The work for the blueprint of the garden was donated. Craig Johnson from the Vergas area will be the landscape architect. Johnson had also worked on M State.

At the time of the meeting, the garden was unnamed. Maas has been running a naming contest on Facebook. She said she put no deadline on voting.

"They can submit ideas and vote on ideas," she said.

Maas explained a three-year plan.

In the summer of 2011, the goal is to plant flowers, shrubs and trees, and to construct the path and sitting bench. The latter could be done as an Eagle Scout project.

In summer 2012, the goal is to figure out the water fixture and the proposed kiosk which could be about six feet long and three feet across. It would be a walk-through structure with display cases of tornado newspaper clippings, photos and other items aided by the Historical Society.

Sculptor Robin Barcus, who is best known for the "States of Dress" sculpture dresses inspired by each of the 50 states, plans to do a tornado dress for Wadena using recovered materials from the storm.

Maas said Barcus did the first piece in Wadena's mural project.

According to, she created the cornstalk Minnesota dress in September 2004 while being an artist-in-residence at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center.

Tim Cassidy, whose sculptures are in the west end of the Burlington Northern park, will probably do an iron sculpture for the garden as well.

In summer 2013, the plan is to add picnic tables and possibly other city benches.

The garden will have a "Wizard of Oz" theme with a yellow brick path, with bricks possibly from the old high school, and a rainbow sculpture.

Maas said the garden would have more perennials than annuals, and is designed using Feng Shui principles.

"Inside the house shape is where the flowers will be planted, and there will be a white corner and a red corner, etc.," Maas said.

Maas said that she is going after some grants, and the Arts League is involved in the project. The Arts League is also the fiscal agent.

Public Works Director Ron Bucholz said they had discussed it at length, and the Wadena Garden Club will be doing ongoing maintenance.

"They [the Park Board] want, too, to make sure that the Fink Park designation stays in that corner," Bucholz said, adding that the Park Board thought it was a good use of the corner.

Maas said she is getting plant materials from the Minnesota State Horticulture Society through their Minnesota Green project. Sentenced to Serve could help with the heavy work, Garden Club could plant flowers and service organizations could plant the trees and shrubs.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said the garden was a sensitive issue and that a neutral name, like Miracle Gardens, would be better than a name that would explicitly refer to the tornado.

"There's a lot of people who don't want any memories of this tornado," he said.

"I really want this to be a healing thing for anybody that gets involved in it," Maas said. "I know I get great healing from working in the outdoors, and also, again, people coming together and creating something beautiful."