Community members played role in local conservation, preservation efforts
RIDGEFIELD — Ridgefield’s scenic Overlook Park recently received a new metal and glass sculpture entitled “Wings of the World,” which honors five individuals who have had an impact on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Overlook Park.
On Sat., Nov. 18, a ceremony will be held at Overlook Park to dedicate the sculpture and recognize the work of Sydney Reisbick, Allene Wodaege, Jim Maul, Amy Montoya and David Dines in helping to create the group Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and Overlook Park.
According to Gail Alexander, acting president of the group Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the initiative to place a commemorative statue in Overlook Park began several months ago when Wodaege contacted her and said that something needed to be done to honor Reisbick for her community work.
Reisbick had been fighting cancer and passed away last month, Alexander said. She said that Reisbick was “a very strong advocate for conservation, for the refuge, for education.” Alexander said that Reisbick played a major role in founding Ridgefield’s annual Birdfest and Bluegrass celebration.
After hearing from Wodaege, Alexander said she worked with Patricia Thompson, president of the Ridgefield Art Association, to find a sculptor to make the artwork, as well as determine the guiding vision for the work.
Alexander said that she wanted the project to be as inclusive as possible, while allowing the community to “do something in honor of this woman that represented a city and a refuge.”
From conversations with different groups and individuals in Ridgefield, Alexander identified several people that could also be honored for their work in the community.
Amy Montoya and David Dines played a key role in the early years of the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Alexander said. The goal of that organization, according to its website, is to promote education of the refuge, and to protect and improve the wildlife habitat at the refuge.
In 1998, Alexander said that the director of the refuge approached the community of Ridgefield and asked for help raising awareness and support for the refuge. Montoya and Dines were two early supporters and members of the Friends group.
Montoya played a vital role in the early years of the organization, Alexander said. Dines was a “celebrated and beloved grade school teacher,” and also loved the refuge. Both played a crucial role in the late 1990s helping the Friends become established, Alexander explained.
While Montoya and Dines were not involved with the Friends on a long-term basis, Alexander said, “they were that energy and they were the ‘yes’ and the enthusiasm and the passion” that helped it become established.
In the early 2000s, Alexander said that a group of 18 international students came to Ridgefield with the intent of creating a “vision for the future” of the refuge. Reisbick, Maul and Wodaege were part of a group that carried that vision forward after the Friends became a registered nonprofit, Alexander said.
Part of that vision included reserving a space in Ridgefield where residents could view the river and the refuge and celebrate the community and conservation. That vision became Overlook Park, Alexander explained.
In 2002, the Friends took ownership of the land that would become Overlook Park, and Reisbick, Maul and Wodaege all were crucial in that endeavor, Alexander said. The city of Ridgefield took over ownership of the property in 2005, and helped carry on the Friends’ vision of building a park.
Reisbick was an assistant research professor at OHSU, Alexander said, and studied neuroscience and behavior in animals. As a newcomer to Ridgefield in 2000, Alexander said she committed to saying “yes” to the Friends, the refuge and the community, and played a pivotal role in the organization of the annual Birdfest and Bluegrass event.
Because of her longtime commitment to the Friends, the organization wanted to honor Reisbick with a sculpture in Overlook park.
Wodaege was the one that began the process of honoring Reisbick with the sculpture, and has been a long time supporter of the Friends.
Maul played a significant role in the history of the Friends group, as well as the efforts of preserving the land for Overlook Park.
Alexander said that “for the Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, he’s really been the glue over all the years.”
“We celebrate their boldness,” Alexander said, “to stand up as advocates” for both Reisbick and the community.
The artist behind “Wings of the World” is Vancouver artist Sharon Warman Agnor, who makes sculptures out of glass and metal.
Agnor said that she was approached by Alexander and Thompson about 3 months ago to construct the sculpture, and that the guidance was to make it related to birds and be kinetic.
The sculpture has three pieces that represent the wings and shoulders of birds. Glass feathers are colored to represent birds that frequent the refuge, Agnor said.
“My hope is that people will look at it and talk about the people that it’s a memorial to and talk about the birds and all the wonderful things that refuge has brought to their community,” Agnor said.
She explained that wings inspired her because “wings are uplifting, they’re inspirational. They kind of represent hope and rising above your circumstance.”
Agnor said that usually, a sculpture such as this would take six months to finish, but she finished it in three. “I really connected with it,” Agnor said.
The people being honored wanted to “make a better place, and I like that idea,” Agnor said.
The sculpture is currently in place in Overlook Park, and will be dedicated at a public ceremony on Sat., Nov. 18 at 4 p.m.