Park City mining-era legend will be honored with bronze sculpture
The late Rich Martinez for many Parkites remains an indelible symbol of Park City’s silver-mining heritage, someone who could wield a miner’s drill into his later years and a figure who riveted generations with stories of working below ground.
Martinez, who died in 2017, was a lifelong Parkite who was one of just a few figures who seemed to be revered by people of all ages and professions as well as longtime Parkites and those who just moved to the community.
The family of Martinez is preparing to commission a bronze statue of the man to be placed in a location in Old Town, the neighborhood where he spent his life.
Park City’s Public Art Advisory Board, a City Hall panel, on Monday discussed the proposal, offering support for the idea to honor Martinez with a sculpture. The Public Art Advisory Board voted unanimously to recommend a contribution of up to $5,000 of taxpayer money to the project. Board members were told it will take between six and eight months for a sculptor to create the work, depending on the person who is hired.
The Public Art Advisory Board did not discuss the proposal in any depth, but members expressed support. Some of Martinez’s nine children were in attendance on Monday.
A location has not been finalized. Three possibilities were mentioned at the meeting. One is the location of the annual Miners Day mucking and drilling contests at City Park. Another is at the location where City Hall plans to build a trailhead accessing the Treasure land overlooking Old Town while the other place mentioned at the meeting was Miners Plaza along Main Street.
The statue will be based on a photograph of Martinez competing in the drilling contest on a Miners Day years ago. It is designed to be 1.5 times life size.
In an interview afterward, Robyn Martinez, one of the late miner’s children, said the family considered some sort of public tribute. People told the family just after his death how much he meant to the community, she said, describing that the sculpture will serve as recognition of the other mining-era families of Park City as well.
“An honoring of how much he loved Park City and how much his life was in service to the community,” she said about the plans for a sculpture. “He was so proud of Park City, even when people were boarding up their houses.”
Martinez was born on Daly Avenue and lived on the Old Town street throughout most of his life. He worked in the mines starting in 1953. Park City was founded in the 19th century as a silver-mining camp and the industry drove the economy through the middle of the 20th century. Silver mining, though, deteriorated as the price of the precious metal declined sharply, leading to Park City’s resurgence through the ski industry.
Martinez more than any other miner eventually came to represent the link to that era as he told stories of his days in the mines and continued to be one of the highlights of the Miners Day celebrations. He was known as the Ol’ Miner.
A statue honoring Martinez will be another reminder of Park City’s silver mining legacy, a time that the community’s influential preservation community and tourism boosters have long highlighted. There are numerous remnants of the mining era in Park City and in the surrounding mountains marked with informational plaques. Some, like the mining-era towers along the route of the Town Lift, are highly recognizable while others must be sought out.
A statue will also continue to advance City Hall’s public art program. The municipal government has placed artworks across Park City, with notable pieces along Main Street and along the S.R. 224 entryway.
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