Letter to the Editor: To Allamakee County residents in regard to the Freedom Rock

To the Editor:

In light of the rising controversy with the Freedom Rock project, I wish to share facts about the opportunity we will have for Allamakee County’s Freedom Rock. Back in 2016, I personally commissioned the artist (Bubba Sorensen) to do a Freedom Rock for us here in Allamakee County. Requirements for submitting the application included naming a city to host it, a site location and a down payment. For obvious reasons, I was prepared to name my husband’s home town, but in discussion with others including a past County Tourism Director, I submitted Waukon. Waukon is the County Seat, is centrally located and has an abundance of amenities that can serve tourists. I also needed open space from which to develop the site around the rock into an attraction. In order to name a city, I had to get city council approval, which I did along with informing Planning and Zoning for any unforeseen issues. The City gave approval and I submitted the application. The application was approved by the artist and we entered into an agreement to abide by his rules and regulations to fulfill his goals and purpose for his project. After the agreement, Allamakee County was placed on his painting schedule. I knew then that it would take years before our turn would come.

Mr. Sorensen has several goals for creating this project, including to honor America’s Veterans and to promote Iowa tourism.  Each county rock is to be a piece of his 99-piece puzzle - one giant Iowa Veteran’s Memorial spread throughout the state. Each rock is different and does not necessarily represent all branches of service but he does design the rock to include local county Veteran history. To quote Mr. Sorensen, his goal is to “not have a PC (politically correct) equal to everybody else’s county or community memorial. Those monuments and memorials have been done many times across the nation and they are great but the Freedom Rock is something different.” By commissioning him to do a rock for our county, we have the opportunity to support his mission in honoring our Veterans.

Our county was actually scheduled for our rock last year but due to conflict and finding a rock in a timely manner, I had to ask to be put back at the bottom of the list. We are now on the schedule to move forward this August. Mr. Sorensen has now scheduled all 99 counties and will be finished with the project this year. After 2020 he will no longer paint Iowa Freedom Rocks. If Allamakee County and Waukon back out on the agreement/contract, we will be the only county in Iowa to not have a rock. I am determined for that not to happen and have committed and chosen to honor the contract I signed. I need community and county support to do this. Again, city and site were determined back in 2016. The park has the space to develop and enhance the scope (landscaping, etc.) of the tourism project; the park has parking, restrooms and picnic areas for our tourists to enjoy while visiting here. The tourists will buy food, they will buy gas, they may stay in our hotel - this is tourism and truly meets one of the artist’s primary goals. Only within the past few months has there been dissension on this - timing does not allow for us to withdraw the agreement and for anyone else to apply. They are not accepting applications anymore. We either honor our agreement or we lose.

The project is strictly promoted as a tourism project and is a part of the State of Iowa Freedom Rock Tour. The artist wishes that at each stop, the visitor learn a unique piece of Veterans and local history and that it be a springboard into exploring our whole county - thus, his overall goal of promoting tourism. His tourism project just happens to have a Veterans theme and an extra opportunity for all of us to add our thanks and appreciation to all Veterans. I wish it to be known that I did this personally and that it had or has nothing to do with my past employment with the County or my present employment with the City of Waukon. In bringing this project here, I did it with the best of intentions for Allamakee County.

Never did I ever dream that something so meaningful and beautiful would not be accepted in the light that it has been presented. I did it as a way to honor not only my husband but again to honor all Veterans and I ask that we be allowed here to do that. It is my hope that our Veterans will accept this project for the true meaning it is being given - in honor and thanks.


Ardie Kuhse


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