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Plans for Theodore Roosevelt monument in SLO park on hold

Posted at 6:00 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 20:14:04-04

Plans to construct a monument of President Theodore Roosevelt in San Luis Obispo’s Mitchell Park are on hold until the city council can consider an ordinance on monuments.

An application for the monument filed with the city in 2015 has been rendered inactive, according to project president John Ashbaugh.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon questioned the need for the monument.

“Wondering why we need more monuments of white men at this point,” Harmon said in a Facebook post. “I just don’t understand why we continue to put all of our resources into only lifting up white men and there’s close to zero resources put into women or people of color whatsoever in terms of monuments, etc.”

Harmon presented City Council with a request for a specific ordinance on the issue, which is set to be reviewed at a July meeting.

Ashbaugh said the reason he’s pushing for the monument is because he sees Roosevelt as a champion of the environment.

“Just about everyone here – ranchers, agriculturists, business people – support the environment,” Ashbaugh said.

In a post on a page dedicated to the SLO Roosevelt monument, the president is noted for speaking in San Luis Obispo in 1903.

Paula Zima, a local artist who created the grizzly bear sculpture in Mission Plaza, was selected to design the Roosevelt monument and has already drafted several versions. One of the versions, a full bust, sits at the SLO County Railroad Museum, according to Ashbaugh.

Ashbaugh is hopeful that the project will be completed.

“It would be a damn shame to me if they adopt a policy that in any way would prevent or delay this project any further,” Ashbaugh said. “We’re not suggesting a sculpture of Robert E. Lee.”

A Virginia monument of Lee, an American and Confederate soldier, sparked controversy over whether the statue glorified racist ideals.