Plans to display the world’s largest iron eagle in downtown Libby have stalled, but that’s not stopping artist Todd Berget from getting ready to build the $60,000 bird. Although a proposal to mount the bird near Mineral Avenue was initially approved last month by the city council, Mayor Doug Roll said the council has since had second thoughts and wants more information.
The bird, which will have a 50-foot wingspan, was the brainchild of Berget and Libby Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shanda Jennings. Berget came up with the idea after finding out that Dollywood in Tennessee had the largest eagle and that it was made in Canada.
“Why have someone from Canada build America’s national bird?” Berget asked.
Berget is an accomplished sculptor and since 1997 has built 53 iron eagles. Many of the birds are on display in Libby, including over the archway in downtown.
Jennings said the eagle would be a great attraction for Libby and Lincoln County, adding that tourists would drive from miles around to see the monument. Jennings hoped the eagle could be placed on the north end of downtown, near the railroad depot.
“The whole idea is to bring business downtown,” she said.
In November, the chamber of commerce asked the city council to approve the statue and it agreed. But Roll had concerns, and on Nov. 26 the council rescinded its approval.
“(The council) got a little excited,” Roll said. “We don’t want to just approve this without knowing what it’ll be… We have to make sure all of our ducks are in a row.”
But the city council isn’t the only obstacle to displaying the eagle downtown. Last week, it was discovered that BNSF Railway owns the land where the chamber hoped to erect the eagle. Roll said the city has talked to BNSF and it’s unlikely the railroad would allow the display.
Berget is already getting ready to build the eagle this winter, even though he doesn’t know where it will be displayed. He said all of his art projects have found a home eventually and he’s not worried about this one. Berget and Jennings estimate it will cost $60,000 to build the sculpture and the chamber has already started raising money.
This winter, one of Berget’s smaller statues will be up for grabs in a raffle at the chamber’s annual fundraiser in February. Tickets are $10 a piece and can be purchased at the chamber of commerce in Libby. Jennings also plans on applying for grants to help pay for the project.
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