Theodore Roosevelt Monument Project

A Monument to Theodore Roosevelt in San Luis Obispo

The Theodore Roosevelt Monument will mark the transformative 1903 visit of this founding father of environmentalism to the American West. San Luis Obispo is situated at about the halfway point on his 14,000 “Grand Loop” tour, and Mitchell Park in San Luis Obispo is the site where he gave a speech focused uniquely on sustainable agriculture and forestry and on promoting “the permanent interests of the country” through conservation of the land. This speech attracted half the county population at the time. Roosevelt’s journey through the Central Coast and the Sierra Nevada would result in the creation of Los Padres National Forest and Yosemite National Park, yet no monument on the West Coast acknowledges his significance to the protection of our nation’s natural resources. San Luis Obispo, with its strong tradition of environmentalism, is the ideal place for this commemoration. Join us in creating a monument that will allow residents and visitors, adults and children to interact with the 26th U.S. President and his ideas.

About the Project

The monument, as currently designed, would consist of a seated Roosevelt, dressed as he was one week after his speech in San Luis, when he shared a three-day camping trip in Yosemite with John Muir. Together, Roosevelt and Muir planned the expansion of that National Park to take in the celebrated glacier-carved Yosemite Valley. The intent would be to represent Roosevelt as the charismatic naturalist that he was, within a setting of boulders and trees that invites residents and tourists to join the president as if in a campfire conversation.

About the Artist

The artist for this project is Paula Zima, a sculptor with deep roots in San Luis Obispo County, having studied at Cal Poly and Cuesta College and created numerous several public sculptures in San Luis and Los Osos, including Mission Plaza’s iconic “Tuquski’ wa Suwa” (Bear and Child). Now based in New Mexico, Paula has been working on preliminary concepts for the monument for over a year and will further refine the proposal based on the sketch shown here. The life-size bronze sculpture will be cast locally in Paso Robles.

Paula’s Vision Statement for the TR Monument can be found here. Paula describes her artistic process for this project on this web page. Her Facebook page for Paula Zima Studios features current updates and photographs of her sculpture.

About the Campaign

The Project Director for the proposed monument is John Ashbaugh, adjunct history professor at Hancock College and a former member of the San Luis Obispo City Council. Ashbaugh has authored an article on the 1903 visit of Theodore Roosevelt to San Luis Obispo, published in the 2015 issue of La Vista.  The Members of the monument committee are Dan Krieger, James Papp, and Pierre Rademaker. Consultants include Dave Cox of Barnett Cox Associates, and Angela Tahti of Arts Obispo.

Dr. Ashbaugh also authored an article in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, a McClatchy newspaper, on September 7, 2017. It responds to the national debate over the movement to remove some of the monuments to Confederate heroes in Charlottesville and elsewhere. Our conclusion: Theodore Roosevelt deserves to be recognized in this community for his significant role in the foundation of the environmental movement in the 20th Century. 

About the Site and Monument Design

The project is proposed in Mitchell Park, a downtown park in San Luis Obispo, where Theodore Roosevelt spoke to a crowd of over 10,000 on May 9, 1903. A set of drawings prepared by San Luis Obispo’s leading architecture firm, RRM Design Group, shows the site connected with, and closely related to its setting within this park, which is popular with visitors and neighbors alike.

ARTS Obispo is providing fiscal sponsorship for the project as a privately funded community art project for the City of San Luis Obispo. The project will be reviewed by a public art jury appointed by the city and other advisory bodies, with ultimate approval by the city council.