BY JON BELL
Above: Years of vandalism and wear have been hard on Peterson's Rock Garden, a popular attraction in Redmond.. It is one of dozens of endangeredd sites in Oregon that may be digitally archived through CyArk Oregon.
Below: Danish immigrant Rasmus Petersen created his quirky rock garden to honor his adopted country.
Petersen’s Rock Garden in Redmond is an eclectic, four-acre collection of regional rocks and miniature monuments. Amassed by Rasmus Petersen throughout the 1930s and 1940s, it is considered one of the city’s most unique attractions. It is also one of the Historic Preservation League of Oregon’s most endangered places.
So when a contractor accidentally damaged one of the garden’s unique stone bridges earlier this year, it might have seemed like yet another blow against the garden, which has long been plagued by vandalism and theft.
But thanks to an innovative effort to document the garden with laser scanning and other technologies, the stone bridge can be rebuilt to its exact original specifications — and preserved for the roadside tourists of tomorrow.
“It’s a full archiving of a site,” says Paul Tice, a visualization specialist with i-Ten, a Portland company specializing in laser scanning and other geospatial data. “The goal is to try to capture everything known about a site.”
The movement is bigger than Tice or i-Ten, however. It’s actually an effort to establish an Oregon incarnation of CyArk, an international nonprofit that digitally preserves cultural heritage sites around the world.
Using laser scanning, digital modeling and other technologies, CyArk collects and archives data and then makes it available to the public. Heritage sites documented so far include the monoliths on Rapa Nui, Mount Rushmore and the Hindu temple Angkor Wat. The information can be used for education, re-creation or efforts to bolster tourism. According to Tice, visits to Mount Rushmore tripled after it was documented on CyArk.
The idea to create a state-level version of CyArk, which will be called CyArk Oregon, came after Tice heard a talk by Tom Greaves, executive director of CyArk. It was Greaves who ultimately decided to bring CyArk to Oregon. Peggy Moretti, executive director of the preservation league, has also been involved in what Tice says is a large collaboration.
Those guiding the effort in Oregon hope to have a board of directors established this summer. The company Tice works for, i-Ten, donated the time and equipment to document Petersen’s Rock Garden. Future projects could be funded by grants, donations or tourism revenue.
Initially, CyArk Oregon will focus on about 100 sites in Oregon, including the Egyptian Theater in Coos Bay and the Tillamook Bay Lifesaving Station. Data and information about each site would be hosted on CyArk servers and could be used in mobile apps or other interactive formats.
“Documenting sites like this will really be a way for people to explore them forever,” Tice says.