Freenotes Case Study: Moab, Utah
The Original Freenotes Installation Turns Fifteen
The town of Moab is nestled next to the Colorado River in southeastern Utah’s canyon country desert. The summer sun is unrelenting and the winter nights bring freezing temperatures and occasional snows. It is a challenging environment, to be sure, yet it is also one of the most livable towns in the American Southwest and one of the most magnetic travel destinations internationally.
In the middle of this active, high desert Mecca sits the very first installation of a Freenotes instrument. The Freenotes “Xylophonus Rex” was set up in Moab’s Rotary Park in 1996 and is still being played today – 15 years later. The only difference is that now the X. Rex is but one piece in the largest ensemble of Freenotes instruments in the world.
Moab community development director, David Olsen, was the man behind the vision to install the X. Rex in Moab’s heavily traveled Rotary Park. He expected some children to be enthusiastic, but he wasn’t prepared for the overwhelmingly positive reception from the tourists and community at large.
According to Olsen, “I get more positive comments about the musical playground than anything. People actually pick up the phone – after a trip to Moab – to tell me, ‘That was the greatest thing we have ever seen in a park. We loved it. We want a musical playground for our community.’ People, from all ages, usually have a big smile on their face when they play the instruments. Here we are in Moab [surrounded by gorgeous National Parks] and we have visitors telling other visitors that they must go to Rotary Park and play the instruments.” – David Olsen, Moab Community Development Director
The public’s enthusiasm inspired Mr. Olsen to add another Freenotes instrument the following year, plus each new instrument developed by Freenotes in each ensuing year. The Moab Rotary Park installation is now the longest standing and largest collection of Freenotes instruments in the world.
Xylophonous Rex has been in the ground for 16 years. Many of the other instruments have been in the park for over 10 years.
With a 16-year partnership between Moab and Freenotes, Mr. Olsen has become an invaluable source of ideas for Freenotes’ research and development. Some of his observations of the instruments in a high-use area have led directly to product enhancements that meet the specific needs of municipal leaders and parks’ managers.
Olsen: “Richard is a perfectionist and he will usually spot flaws in the instruments and build them stronger in the future. As time has gone on, the instruments are getting more bullet proof and require less maintenance.”
With the legacy instruments embedded at the park and the dear place it holds in the soul of Freenotes, Moab Rotary Park is now hosting the 2012 Freenotes prototypes. The new models are designed to mitigate vandalism concerns and continue the legacy of low maintenance sensory additions to the landscape.
With instruments in the ground at Moab Rotary Park for a decade and a half, they are still making beautiful music for all who play. And Olsen has found that the numbers of those who play continues to grow. The musical playground is a captivating draw for young and old. It is a sight, and more importantly, a sound to behold.
Postscript: With the long-running relationship between the City of Moab and FHP, Moab has become an FHP field-testing area before products are put into production.