Enter Gallup Park off Fuller Rd. west of Huron Pkwy., go over the one-lane arched wooden bridge, and on the left you’ll see a leopard frog big enough for a toddler to climb on. Along the drive that runs by the river, there’s an even bigger Eastern Tiger salamander on the left just before a parking lot at the end of the drive. Continue on foot toward the restrooms to find a large painted turtle.
At the park’s eastern entrance across Huron Pkwy., you can’t miss a larger-than-life-size Canada goose on the path in front of the parking lot. Proceed toward the canoe livery and past the butterfly garden to find a super-sized muskrat.
These animal sculptures of local fauna are whimsical creatures, “intended to be play sculptures for children, climbed on and enjoyed,” according to Keeler Ekman, a sales and marketing associate for Cemrock, the Arizona company that made these beasts.
The purchase was made possible by a generous donation from Ann Arborite Irene Fast. Inspiration and guidance came from city parks planner Amy Kuras, who chose the river theme.
Each creature started with a structural foam core and was hand sculpted out of glass fiber and reinforced concrete, then coated with acrylic paint and sealant. Each took about eight weeks to make, including the time for the concrete to cure.
One small but important feature of the sculptures is that the animals all have catch lights painted on the pupils of their eyes. A natural catch light is created by the light of the sun. It is that twinkle in the eye that makes a being look lively and well.
For children and those of a childish mind, the animals are exciting to discover. The colorful concrete creatures also offer opportunities to identify these animals’ basic physical features and can lead to discussions of their nature and part in the local environment. Petting is permitted, but do not attempt to feed these animals–it would be frustrating and futile.
The five we have featured here are not the only statuary animals in the park; another frog and a snapping turtle can be found in the playground near the canoe livery. Kuras says more animal sculptures will grace the forthcoming “Rotary playground”–perhaps another turtle, a snake, a spider.