Gainey Conference Center Gains a Labyrinth

His name may not be Frank Gehry, but Trent Tucker has spruced up the grounds of the University of St. Thomas’ Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in his own intricate way.

Tucker, a sophomore at Owatonna High School, has created a labyrinth 45-feet in diameter out of gravel, wood chips, large rocks and a giant center limestone.

The circular, maze-like arrangement, an Eagle Scout service project, was completed in mid-October and took two months to build.

Marlene Levine, director of the Gainey Center, said, “When I first met Trent, he said one of the badges that he really liked was landscape architecture. We’ve been wanting to have a labyrinth out here for a long time, and we had the perfect spot for it” – an area tucked along the edge of the woods at the former site of the fire pit behind the conference center.

Levine said the project was especially appropriate for the Gainey Center because it is a retreat center, and the walking paths get a lot of use from people wanting to take a break from meetings or to get outside.

Tucker researched not only how to design a labyrinth but also the structure’s raison d’etre. He found that they’re valued because “people use them for thinking about things and losing themselves in thought walking through it.”

Levine added, “a walking circle − or a labyrinth − is even more meaningful than walking paths because of the symbolism of the circle. Oftentimes it doesn’t have to be a spiritual walk, it can just be a management problem or something you just need to think about. If you take that thought and walk through the circle with that thought, the idea is that you kind of bring it toward the center and as you walk back out again, you take that thought and come back out and let it out into the environment.”

All the materials used in the design are locally recycled and were donated by Owatonna businesses. Notably, the medium-sized rocks used to outline the paths were donated by Tucker’s uncle and great uncle from their farms in Steele County; also, a unique, bulbous rock that sits at the entrance of the path was donated by Tucker’s great-aunt, who found the rock on her farm in the 1940s.

Tucker arranged the labyrinth’s entrance using blue stone, a rare stone already on site that was brought in by Edwin Lundie, the architect who designed the French-Norman-style Gainey residence in the 1950s.

The labyrinth is free and open to the public. Find the original article on the labyrinth at the Owatonna People’s Press website.

Questions about the labyrinth? Contact the Gainey Center, (507) 446-4460.