By Nicholette Carlson
SYRACUSE — There’s a new design at the welcome to Syracuse sign on SR 13 and it is much more than just pretty.
In 2005, Roxann Arnott began the long and arduous process of buying the property where Dynamic Landscaping and the welcome sign now sit. The area was extremely overgrown and Arnott hoped to move her business out of her home into town in that location. In the two-year process of purchasing the property, Arnott had a great deal of help getting permits and getting through all the red tape from the zoning board from Heather Harwood, Harwood’s mother, Annie Laurie Hardie, and Gus Duehmig.
The area where the sign is located was then donated and deeded over to the town to make the town entrance pretty. Harwood thought up the idea for the sign and made the diagram. Her brother, George Hardie, along with his company, Earthwerks, and Roger Wiggs built the sign. Laurie Hardie and Duehmig helped to make the sign, business and property purchase happen.
While Arnott has since sold her business and Dynamic Landscaping, owned by Crystal (Fawley) Knafel, has taken over the property, Arnott continues to maintain and plant the welcome sign area every year. Following Laurie Hardie’s death March 9, Arnott decided she wanted her design this year to honor her. “I wanted to provide a tribute to her somehow,” she explained. Hardie was not only important to Arnott and that specific property, but she was instrumental in places and events throughout Syracuse and Goshen.
Living in Florida during the winter, Arnott saw similar canoe designs at marinas. With the assistance of Bob Fanning in finding and painting a canoe red, it was placed by the sign Memorial Day. The planting followed, with red hibiscus on either side. When asked why there is so much red, Arnott responded Hardie was a redhead and her favorite color was red, further honoring her memory. Arnott also placed stone around it and fertilized it, commenting it would be easier to take care of than previous years since it is off the ground.
Facing the welcome sign, there is a pear tree to the right of the canoe. This is in honor of Duehmig, who passed away in 2005.
These individuals had a huge impact on Arnott and it is an emotional salute to those who helped make her dreams a reality. “It’s a tribute to what they gave back to the city,” she stated.
Arnott spoke with the Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, June 23, to start a Red Canoe Fund through the SWCC Foundation. When Arnott’s canoe first went up, a gentleman offered to donate his canoe to the chamber for a similar beautification project. Renea Salyer, chamber executive director, and Arnott spoke about possible uses for the donated canoe and have decided to team up for this placemaking project. Salyer commented, “We want to make a great thing throughout the community that ties it all together.” They are considering locations at a welcome sign near the roundabout being built, near a potential future dog park or even along Main Street.
As a brand new beautification project, the Red Canoe Fund is looking for donations of canoes, flowers, river rock and the like or money to be used toward the project. All donations are tax deductible. Salyer is also hoping to perhaps gather sponsorships for a canoe from local businesses.
For more information on the Red Canoe Fund or to donate, email or call Salyer at [email protected] or (574) 457-5637.