A little girl whose book was stolen years ago will soon have a replacement in her hands.
This “little girl” is actually the well-known bronze statue that sits on one of the benches that surround the fountain located at Northeast Fourth Avenue and Cedar Street in downtown Camas.
When it was first installed in June 2002, the girl was holding a book, also made of bronze. Just a few weeks later, the book was damaged and then repaired. It was later stolen again and never replaced. That is, until now.
Camas resident Randy Curtis and his granddaughter Olivia Brotherton, 9, walked by the statue one day about a month ago after having dinner with family. They wondered about its backstory.
“I, like many thousands of others, have walked by and didn’t know something was missing,” said Curtis, a member of the Camas Parks and Recreation Commission. “Then, we realized that there had been a book there. [Olivia] asked the question, can’t we get her another book?”
Inspired by his granddaughter’s inquisitive nature and love of reading and writing, Curtis set out to work with the city to get the book replaced.
After ruling out options such as using a 3-D printer, because the end product wouldn’t be weather resistant, Curtis decided the next step would be to create a prototype out of some material he found in his garage.
After showing the model he created out of a Trex composite deck board to some folks from the Downtown Camas Association and the Chamber of Commerce, he realized he found the solution.
“It took a few hours to make that, but it could be reproduced again if it came up missing,” Curtis told the Camas City Council last night.
During the next week, Curtis said the statue will be removed by city crews who will then affix the book to the statue’s hands. It will then be officially unveiled Saturday, April 26, as part of “Spring Into History Day” in downtown Camas.
Curtis credited his granddaughter, a student at Grass Valley Elementary School in Camas, with getting the ball rolling on the project.
“It was really her imagination, her quest, that inspired all of this,” he said.
Camas City Councilwoman Linda Dietzman said she appreciates their efforts.
“After the statue was first put there, the book disappeared and it was my understanding that they replaced it once and the book disappeared again,” Dietzman said. “At that point, the idea was OK, I guess we’ll just have to imagine there is a book there. But you know what, I’d much rather have a real book there, so thank you.”
She asked Police Chief Mitch Lackey if there is anything that can be done to prevent the statue from being damaged or stolen.
“I think if you want to share it with everyone in the community and have it be a piece of art that can be enjoyed, along with that hand-in-hand goes that risk,” he said. “I think you could put a security camera on it, or assign a policeman to stand next to it in an extreme event. Other than those things, it’s just one of those risks we take.”
The statue was originally purchased by an organization that was then known as the Camas Downtown Association, through a $1,000 grant from the United Camas Association of Neighborhoods. Uta Zuendel, a longtime Camas resident downtown revitalization supporter, bought it from a nursery in Woodburn, Ore., as a pilot project for public art in Camas.
“Hopefully, we won’t have to go back to just ‘imaging’ the book again,” Dietzman said.