Pocahontas hears proposal for artistic plan

POCAHONTAS – The future of public art in both the city of Pocahontas and the county at large will center on the public spaces around Lizard Lake, according to a conceptual plan presented Wednesday.

David Dahlquist, creative director of RDG Dahlquist Art Studio, of Des Moines, made the presentation at a public forum at Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency. It was attended by about 45 people.

Dahlquist, who was hired by the Pocahontas County Economic Development Commission, said the proposal would consist of “sensitive development that creates a major destination experience for people.”

He and members of his design team visited sites in Pocahontas County, he said. They included existing parks, historic monuments, preserved architecture and a limestone quarry located near Gilmore City.

They liked the stone elements found there.

“You have a square mile of one of the most beautiful indigenous materials there,” Dahlquist said.

The team was also impressed with the land in the county, particularly its history as the once-thriving Prairie Pothole system of which Lizard Lake is a remnant.

Dahlquist played a recording made at the lake of frogs, birds and other creatures at sunset.

“It’s a precious natural resource,” he said.

Some of the ideas the group developed for the area around the lake include a Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Area, canoe launches, a lookout tower and trails.

“They are one of the most important things,” Dahlquist said. “You need them to be a magnet for people to use the area.”

His team also suggested an amphitheater.

“You could use it in a variety of ways,” he said. “There are incredible examples through history of stone amphitheaters, both natural and man made.”

Some type of earthform, such as a maze in the form of a lizard, was also suggested.

“It would be a place where kids can wander around,” he said.

The trail would not only go by the lake, around the lake and near the lake, but actually through it as well.

Part of it could run through the water with windows that would allow walkers to see what’s going on under the water.

“It actually goes below the water surface,” Dahlquist said.

Another area that would gain art would be the road into Lizard Lake; the conceptual plan includes a stone wall, made from cubic-yard blocks of locally quarried limestone, to line the road. The quarter-mile-long sculpture would be illuminated at night.

In addition, it proposes markers consisting of four columns of the same stones at various sites to honor the graphic square platting of the county.

“These come directly out of the history of how your county was mapped,” he said.

The markers would serve another purpose too. They would offer a sense of continuity throughout the county.

“They will be spread out through each town,” Dahlquist said.

In addition, the patterns carved into the stone would be inspired by the patterns found on native Iowa lizards.

The goal of the entrance to the development around Lizard Lake would be to entice visitors.

“We want it to say there is something special beyond that little rise,” he said. “We’re creating a ceremony to get you there.”

Whether the plans come to fruition is in the hands of local residents. Dahlquist called it a “21st century WPA for Pocahontas County.”

“You’ve lost half your population,” he said. “Are you willing to take a risk, and how big a risk are you willing to take to bring people here?”