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State Park

History

When campus officials considered building the future Ross Hall on the corner of 9th St. and Ivinson Ave., nearby residents were concerned that the area represented one of the last open spaces on campus. Consequently, the Wyoming legislature passed a bill that set the land aside permanently as a Wyoming State Park. (Prexy’s Pasture was set aside by legislative act in similar fashion in the 1960s.)  

Though UW expanded throughout the years, the land remained completely vacant until a stone marker memorializing 17 UW students who died in the Vietnam War was placed there in 1966 by the Alumni Association. The memorial is among the earliest ever dedicated to the memory of soldiers lost in that war. Each name is engraved on a bronze plate attached to the stone marker, along with a statement about the importance of their sacrifice. The peaceful setting remains a favorite place for students, faculty, and campus visitors to walk, sit on the grass on warm days, and enjoy that last corner of old City Park just as pioneer residents enjoyed the same natural surroundings more than a century ago.  

Although tucked away among bushes and trees in the earlier years, the stone marker was the focus for an Anti-War March in the fall of 1969.  More than 700 Wyoming students participated in a march as part of the nationwide Vietnam moratorium. But this event was overshadowed by the “Black 14” incident which began two days later: In October 1969, 14 African American athletes on the UW football team approached Coach Lloyd Eaton and asked if they could demonstrate their opposition to the then-racial policy of the LDS by wearing black armbands in the forthcoming game against Brigham Young University, an LDS college. Eaton not only refused the request, but in an intemperate outburst, dismissed the 14 players from the team. The resulting uproar gained national headlines and adversely influenced UW Sports for almost a decade. The grassy expanse was also the site of the annual “Elizabethan Faire,” sponsored by the Department of English in the 1960s-1980s.

In 2011, the university drew criticism from many residents for a piece of art in the area, “Carbon Sink: what goes around comes around.” The sculpture was a critique of the energy industry and its contribution to global warming and the pine beetle epidemic. The piece was controversially removed in 2012.

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