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One Year Later: Plans for a permanent memorial to Brett are confirmed

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

This is a draft design concept created by Matt Cardinal for a permanent memorial to honor Brett Jarolimek at N. Interstate and Greeley Ave. The image is taken from a photograph by Bob Libby of Creative Dog Photography.

At a meeting this morning in downtown Portland, plans for a permanent memorial to be erected at the site of Brett Jarolimek’s death one year ago, were officially put into motion.

The meeting took place in the office of ODOT’s Region 1 manager Jason Tell. In addition to Mr. Tell, around the table were ODOT’s Portland-area maintenance manager Ted Miller, the BTA’s Public Affairs chief Karl Rohde, Brett’s close friend Matt Cardinal, and two ODOT community affairs reps.

ODOT’s Tell started the meeting off by recounting how the Jarolimek tragedy effected him, his staff, and the entire community:

“I was really struck at how many people were impacted by it. As I met with people at various events, it just kept coming up. It’s stayed with me ever since.”

Tell said those feelings led him to work with his staff to figure out “an appropriate tribute” to not just honor Brett, but to use his story as a way to foster ongoing awareness for sharing the road. “When I approached staff about this idea,” he shared, “I didn’t even have to convince them this was worth spending time on it.”

It’s taken a year to work up a plan because, according to Tell, “every decision we make here at ODOT is under a lot of scrutinty.”

On the conference table in front of Tell and the others was a design concept (see above) created by artist, framebuilder and friend of Brett’s, Matt Cardinal. Also on the table was an official ODOT permit application to begin work on the memorial.

According to Cardinal, the memorial will be a mosaic mural created with ceramic tile and will be placed under the bridge on the same wall where a spray-painted stencil of Brett appeared back in November (and was reluctantly removed by ODOT shortly thereafter).

Cardinal said the mosaic — which he expects to be completed by February — will be built off-site*, on a separate structure. That way, if ODOT ever has to do anything to the wall, the mural will not be damaged.

The design, Cardinal says, will be kept simple and will likely look very similar to the graphic above (Brett on his bike with “Share the Road” alongside). The image of Brett racing his cyclocross bike (taken by Bob Libby) has become something of an icon and is also being used as part of an official logo sticker of the Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA), of which Brett was a member.

Tell, and maintenance manager Ted Miller, have decided that the project will be done under the rubric of their Adopt-a-Landscape program. In addition to the mural, ODOT will install paving stones to beautify the median island directly in front of the wall (it’s currently just dirt).

That Adopt-a-Landscape program requires an official partner to sign the permit application and commit to maintaining the area. The BTA will be that official partner and Karl Rohde signed the permit application at the meeting this morning.

Funding for the project is still being lined up. Talks are underway for funding through the Regional Arts and Culture Council and if that doesn’t come through, Cardinal says he’ll approach the Brett Jarolimek Memorial Fund for a grant.

“When we started Brett’s memorial fund,” said Cardinal, “we wanted to fund projects that included a message about safety, combined with art. This seems perfect for that.”

The effort put forth by Jason Tell and ODOT, and their willingness to extend outside their usual responsibilities and focus, is not only an illustration of the shift taking place at that agency, but it’s a tangible manifestation of how Brett’s death (and Tracey Sparling’s just 11 days prior) will not be forgotten by our community.

Thanks are due to ODOT (an especially Mr. Tell) for putting this partnership together and for making this project a reality.

*NOTE: Matt Cardinal is looking for a space where he and the other artists can work to create this mural. If you know of anyone with an appropriate studio or workspace, please get in touch and I’ll forward you to Matt. They’d need the space for a period of one month.