“Landing Zone,” created by Peter Reiquam, is the title of the giant UFO-style sculpture at the Paine Field Community Park playground. It is 16 feet wide and 12 feet high. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

“Landing Zone,” created by Peter Reiquam, is the title of the giant UFO-style sculpture at the Paine Field Community Park playground. It is 16 feet wide and 12 feet high. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

UFO at Paine Field playground was left by an artist — not aliens

The flying saucer at community park in Everett is a cosmic attraction.

Seattle has the Space Needle.

Everett has a flying saucer.

What’s up with that?

It’s the UFO by the playground at Paine Field Community Park in southwest Everett.

The park at the edge of the airfield has long been a hidden gem, mainly used by locals. That is, until High Trek Adventures opened across the parking lot in May. The giant Lincoln Log-looking structure with zip lines and obstacle courses draws people from all over the state and beyond. To get there, the thrill-seekers have to pass by the flying saucer, which is conveniently located by the park’s rest room.

There’s no sign explaining what this cosmic thing is, so earthlings are left to wonder its origin. Such was the case with The Daily Herald reader who asked me to find out what in the world that spaceship is doing there.

An extraterrestrial invasion in Everett? Not likely, though that sure would be cool.

Turns out the spaceship is a public art installation called “Landing Zone,” made by Seattle sculptor Peter Reiquam and installed in the park in 2009.

The 16-foot-diameter aluminum disk does more than stand there on 9-foot telescoped legs and look pretty. It provides shade as well as seating on the space rock boulders embedded in pavement. To the side, a black concrete bench in the shape of an X replicates a landing marker.

In the saucer’s middle is a blue skylight that acts as a transporter beam. Stand under it and see what happens. Nothing, but you can still pretend. That’s the point.

“I take my work very seriously, but I also want people to have fun with it,” Reiquam told me.

“I decided to create this fictional narrative about this flying saucer that landed in the park with an environment around the base that looks sort of like an alien landscape. I wanted to do something different and something that was a little bit unexpected.”

The recent addition of the High Trek climbing fortress adds to the quirky vibe of the park, which otherwise has your typical parkish jungle-gym contraptions and ballfields.

Reiquam’s sculpture was funded through the One Percent for the Arts program, which contributes 1 percent of all county construction projects of more than $100,000, excluding roads, to the county arts fund.

“It fits in with the airport and aeronautics-type theme along with the museums (at Paine Field),” said Snohomish County Parks Department division manager Russ Bosanko. “It’s a nice little aspect to the playground. I’ve seen kids playing underneath it.”

On a recent day, 2-year-old Eli Weeks of Lynnwood ran to the spaceship and wiggled enthusiastically under the blue beam. Then it sounded like he mumbled something about flying to Neptune.

The sculpture was among the first of about two dozen public art installations chosen by Snohomish County Arts Commission. Reiquam also did “Simple Arrow,” five stainless steel sculptures that show the process of folding a paper airplane at Martha Lake Airport Park.

Other county artworks include “Resilience” by Joe Powers, a stainless steel arch on the Centennial Trail in Arlington, “A Day at the Fair” by Cheri O’Brien, a glass and steel tunnel at Evergreen State Fairgrounds in Monroe, and “A Comic Balancing Act” by Glen Anderson, mosaic tile at Lake Stevens Community Park.

“Landing Zone” was selected for the 2010 Public Art Year in Review that recognized 40 of the year’s best public artworks in the United States and Canada.

“I always loved that sci-fi aesthetic,” Reiquam said.

The artist has a son named Shepard, in honor of Alan Shepard, who on May 5, 1961, became the first American to travel into space.

“I have a big tattoo on one arm that’s the moon landing,” he said. “It has Neil Armstrong standing on the moon and the flag. It is based on NASA photographs from that time.”

“Landing Zone” put Everett on the Roadside America map site, along with the Muffler Man atop the building at 1100 Hewitt Avenue. Other local Roadside America attractions are the 26-foot fiberglass airplane at Dillon Works in Mukilteo and the dancing Blues Brothers at Andy’s Auto Repair in Lynnwood.

Reiquam, 58, said he tries to do a major art piece every year and has works from Georgia to Alaska. Pieces in Washington include a colossal pouncing cat with LED eyes at a Seattle fire station, a 15-foot hammer standing upside down in Puyallup and three giant corn stalks in Kent. The 9-foot king and queen chess pieces in a Rainier neighborhood are also his doing, as a tribute to the police detective who started a chess club to get kids off the streets.

Make sure you visit Everett’s UFO soon. You never know if it’ll take off.

Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

If you go

Paine Field Community Park is at 11928 Beverly Park Road in Everett.

See more of Peter Reiquam’s work at www.reiquam.com. See other Snohomish County public art installations at www.snocoarts.org.

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