The Urban Trail, a tour through downtown Asheville punctuated by dozens of bronze sculptures and an accompanying plaque detailing local history, remains incomplete 18 years after its inception. But there may be an end in sight.
Construction crews are set to return four bronze statues on Pack Square in the heart of downtown in a few weeks, according to Diane Ruggiero, Asheville’s superintendent of cultural arts. A mother pig and piglet, one of the trail’s most beloved sculptures, and a mother turkey and poult, will return to their spot at Urban Trail stop No. 2, which is named “Crossroads.”
In the summer of 2007, thieves stole the piglet and ripped the big porker from its moorings, but failed to haul it off. Several Urban Trail sculptures have been targets of thieves and vandals in recent years. Heads were cut off three figures at the trail marker in front of Malaprop’s bookstore, and a bronze basket of apples was ripped from Urban Trail stop No. 15.
“We’ll use a little more reinforcement” for the piglet this time around, Ruggiero says.
This fall, the sculpture of a girl drinking from a fountain is scheduled to be returned to her spot in the new Pack Square Park. The sculpture has been cleaned, restored and retooled, says Ruggiero — it won’t function as a working water fountain, and the attached lamp post, which originally featured a gas lantern, will be replace with an electric light fixture.
“She’ll be in by early fall,” Ruggiero says of Urban Trail stop No. 23, called “Past and Promise.”
One other Urban Trail stop remains unfinished. Station No. 1, set to be installed outside of Pack Place. Artists submitted proposals in 2007, but renovation work at Pack Square Park delayed the station’s completion. Ruggiero says a new subcommittee of Asheville’s Public Art Board has been assembled to finalize a design and install the first station. The committee plans to ask artists to incorporate bricks into the design that have been emblazoned with the names of trail donors.
The bricks were taken up before park construction started and haven’t been replaced.
The Urban Trail began in 1991, when a group of volunteers decided to create a self-guided walking loop through downtown that would tell the story of the city’s past. Various stations along the walk capture the essence of five distinct historical periods. Brochures are widely distributed, and guided tours starting at the Asheville Art Museum are available.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor
Photo above: The pig and turkey statues in Pack Square were replaced a few years ago by two-dimensional cut-outs pending completion of Pack Square Park construction.
photo by Jonathan Welch