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To see Mandeville Creek today where it runs past Bozeman High School -- with mallards swimming, water burbling over rocks and photography students snapping pictures of nature -- seems just short of miraculous.

For decades the creek ran in a straight ditch along North 11th Avenue, an unsightly spot where the wind blew discarded lunch wrappers.

Just 10 weeks ago on Labor Day weekend, the creek was torn up by heavy construction equipment, making such a big muddy mess it was hard to imagine it would ever look attractive.

Yet now the creek meanders through a new, winding streambed, flanked by grass, large rocks, old evergreens and newly planted aspen trees – halfway to realizing its advocates’ dreams.

“It’s so much more than I ever hoped for,” said Robin Hompesch, the wildlife biology teacher who worked for years to “re-meander the Mandeville.”

“It’s just so beautiful!”

On Thursday, another step in the beautification of Bozeman High began when woodshop students started creating bases for several large metal sculptures that will be installed along the creek.

Most impressive is a 1992 sculpture of two bison, entitled “Change of Seasons,” created by TD Kelsey and donated to the school in 2000 in memory of his wife, Sidni. The couple met as students at Bozeman High, said Beth Pfaff, art department head.

Kelsey’s bison sculptures also stand at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, the National Museum of Wildlife Art at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls.

“It needs to be out in public,” Pfaff said. “It’s a pretty wonderful sculpture.”

Putting the artworks where they can be seen realizes the vision of retired art teacher Ray Campeau, she said. And Pfaff said she hopes that someday, if a performing arts space were ever built at Bozeman High, it would be enhanced by the nearby sculptures.

The bison sculpture will be installed in an open grassy area near Lamme Street, with sagebrush planted to evoke a native prairie, said Mike Ruyle, assistant principal.

The prairie idea fits the landscaping plan created by volunteer landscape designer Amy Stefan, whose kids recently graduated from Bozeman High. It seeks to replicate how Montana’s environment changes as one climbs up a mountain through different vegetative zones.

Hompesch said as people stroll on a path uphill toward Main Street and the mountains, they’ll pass a Ponderosa pine, limber pine, Douglas fir and larch trees.

Closer to Main Street, woodshop students worked Thursday on a new base for the stylized sculpture of an Indian scout. It used to stand in the courtyard of the former Chief Joseph Middle School, now renovated as the high school’s main North Classroom Building.

A metal sculpture of a hawk will be moved, as will a large horseshoe-shaped sculpture created by students in 1975, when nationally known sculptor Ted Waddell was artist-in-residence. Pfaff said the giant horseshoe will be placed like an arch to frame views of Sacajawea Peak.

The bison and other sculptures used to stand in the courtyard used by Hawks Nest preschool children, Ruyle said. Since the high school’s renovation, high school students and the public seldom see them.

To complete the first phase of the Mandeville project, Hompesch said, the group raised $50,000 in cash, grants and donations, plus more than $80,000 in in-kind donated construction equipment, trees and volunteered engineering services.

“It’s been an incredible outpouring of gifts,” Hompesch said. “It makes me so proud to be a teacher and part of the community.”

She’s not finished yet. Building outdoor classrooms and installing permanent bridges are still in the works. English teachers are excited about the idea of creating a literary walk, with students’ favorite quotes planted along a path.

Hompesch is also working on plans to extend the creek’s meander south -- all the way to Durston Road. She even hopes to create a meander where the tennis courts now stand, if they are moved closer to the football stadium.

“It’s unusual and exciting that we get to use this creek,” said senior Kyle Jones, 18, a woodshop student and member of the football team that laid sod on Labor Day. “Not a lot of schools in the state have an amazing landscape in their front entrance.”

To learn more about plans for Mandeville Creek or to donate, Hompesch said, people can visit the group’s website (http://bhscreek.org).

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Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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