Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Volunteers seek funds to get Moon Pavilion built in Pedersen Sportsmans Park by 2014

The Dragon's Path and deck in the Friendship Garden at Pedersen Sportsmans Park, south of the Broadway Bridge. All this work has been done by volunteers since 2011. The deck is built over the decrepit concrete fish runs that date back to 1930s. (Photo by Paul Menser)
As a master gardener, Judy Seydel has never had a problem with jobs starting small and getting bigger, but she admits she wasn't prepared for how much work would be involved in building a pagoda at Pedersen Sportsmans Park.

Located on an island just south of the Broadway bridge, the park has been home to one of the Japanese lanterns donated by Tokai-Mura, Japan, which has been Idaho Falls' sister city since 1981.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Sister-Cities relationship, Clarke Kido, a member of the steering committee, suggested it would be nice to build a friendship garden around the lantern. The city of Idaho Falls gave its permission, with the caveats that work could only be done north of the Taylor Toll Bridge replica and no public money would be spent.

Gloria Miller-Allen's painting of what the Moon Pavilion will look like.
Through donations, both cash and in-kind, and volunteer work (about 250 people were involved, many of them Idaho Falls Civitans), they removed old plants and brush removed and got a deck built in 2012.

As for the city, "Once they saw what we were doing they got all excited about it," Seydel said.

In 2012, the volunteers were allowed into the south end of the island, clearing out volunteer day lilies, landscaping a "dragon path" across the settling pond, planting Japanese irises and cattails. Volunteers Ed Zaladonis and his brother Mike Zaladonis suggested the crowning touch would be a "Moon Pavilion" open-air pagoda, built in time for the July 2014 visit of the Sister Cities delegation from Tokai-Mura.

They discovered challenges right away. First of all, it had to be earthquake proof, but with no walls and nearly 8,000 pounds of tile on the roof. While the original plan was to drill into the bedrock and anchor six 12-inch posts, they discovered the bedrock was too uneven. Then they found the culvert underneath the site was compromised by rust and needed to be replaced.

They have since designed larger footings that do not need to tie into bedrock. The design and structural calculations were approved in May by the City of Idaho Falls Building Department.

Seydel estimates they have collected $56,000 in donations and grants, from the CHC Foundation, Idaho Cities Foundation and Japanese American Citizens League. Corporate support has come from Wal-Mart, Kohl's, CAL Ranch stores and other sources.

The professional team that has helped with the project includes:
  • Mark Andrus, G&S Engineering (structural design and certification)
  • Mike Bowcutt, DAFAB Construction (construction adviser/liaison)
  • Steve Dick, BMC Building Materials (scaffolding materials)
  • Kurt Karst, Alderson Karst & Mitro Architects (architectural review)
  • Mark Andrew, Alpine Timber (timber frame adviser)
Still, to get the job done she estimated they need another $5,000.

"This town really needs to know what has been going on down there for three years now," said Gloria Miller-Allen, a well-known Idaho Falls painter. "Many people do know it is there, but few know who is doing it, and fewer still know they are trying to build a pavilion. They are sand-blasting bricks with the names of contributors sometime soon. It sure would be nice to include a few more names on those bricks."
"I like how they're redoing it," said Cheri Okelberry of Idaho Falls, who was in Pedersen Sportsmans Park today taking pictures of her friends Daniel and Katie Paulson at the Japanese lantern statue. "It's really beautiful. I remember when there really wasn't much." (Photo by Paul Menser)
"One thing leads to another then leads to another," said Seydel. "Someone will say, 'The deck looks too bare.' Or the meadow stream, it would look cool if there was a cement bridge."

One thing there is no shortage of is water, a necessity for any Japanese garden but a problem at Pedersen Sportsman's Park because of the crumbling fish runs that date back to the 1930s, when the local Sportsmans Association founded by Peder Pedersen hatched fingerlings there.

"Some of them are leaking into the shady, grassy areas," Seydel said.

The island's importance to the city is not lost on Seydel and her fellow volunteers. In 1865, it was where the toll bridge and stage stop were built. Eagle Rock grew from there, becoming Idaho Falls in 1891.

"It's a big part of the city's history," Seydel said. "When we started this we had no idea."

Anyone interested in contributing can contact Seydel at (208) 529-3144 or by e-mail at, or Ed Zaladonis at (208) 243-1920.