The former site of Manitou Springs' two beloved elm trees - whose chainsawed fate in May drew protests and demonstrations - now will be marked with public art.
The Manitou Springs Arts Council has issued a call for artists, open until Nov. 15, for a "permanent three-dimensional work of art" to be installed in front of a parking lot near Canon and Washington avenues, where the trees long had stood.
Some residents still lament the loss of the elms, which gained fame as the subjects of local artist Charles Rockey's illustration and accompanying poem "The Tree Couple."
"Those trees were special and significant to a number of residents. My goal for the project is to find a way to honor that," said Juanita Canzoneri, a community liaison for the arts council.
City officials were at odds with citizens over whether the trees needed to come down.
Some said the trees, weakened by insect infestation, were near collapse and could endanger passing traffic and pedestrians; others argued that they could be salvaged.
City staff said the elms' removal was necessary to widen the Canon Avenue sidewalk to meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the sidewalk already met the minimum standards, City Councilman Bob Todd said.
Protesters gathered in May when the two noted trees, along with three others, were cut down. The demonstrators, who called themselves "The Canon 100," wrapped streamers around the trees' trunks, toted signs and told crews with a tree removal service to "Go home please."
Even after the elms had been removed, people assembled at the site again in June to protest as work began on the sidewalk widening.
Todd said more than 100 people opposed the downing of the trees. Before they were cut, a petition with about 50 signatures was presented to the council, asking the city to defer a decision on the fate of the elms until a master plan of the area was developed.
Several of the city's advisory boards and commissions also opposed cutting the trees, Todd said.
The city originally discussed planting bushes and placing a wisteria-laced archway where the trees had stood, although watering the plants would be difficult, he said. Another idea was to decorate the site with painted rocks.
"Whatever is planned for that area, let's go back to the beginning and have our citizen commissions and advisory boards review it," he said. "They're the experts."
The city is willing to spend up to $15,000 on the public art project, Canzoneri said. The Manitou Springs City Council will select a winning artist by the end of the year from a list of finalists chosen by the arts council, Canzoneri said.
The two openings for the art to fill are 41 inches wide by 24 feet long and 44 inches wide by 32½ feet long, respectively.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108