Joan McBride is planning the celebration party, thanks to recent donations to Kirkland's "Save the Animals" campaign. McBride, Kirkland's deputy mayor...

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Joan McBride is planning the celebration party, thanks to recent donations to Kirkland’s “Save the Animals” campaign. McBride, Kirkland’s deputy mayor, said less than $16,000 is needed to purchase three sculptures — “Mountain Comrades,” “Close Quarters” and “Bounding Muledeer” — for the city.

“That’s just the tax. We can buy them now except for the tax,” said McBride. “We have until July 31 to raise that.”

Residents in the Moss Bay and Market neighborhoods voted to give money from their Neighborhood Connection Program capital-projects budgets to the statue campaign. Moss Bay residents agreed to donate their entire $25,000; Market gave $7,000. Two anonymous Market residents donated $8,000, and the Lakeview Neighborhood Association contributed $500.

Those donations brought the total raised to more than $197,000 of the $212,160 needed.

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“Bounding Muledeer,” a bronze of leaping deer, stands on the southeast corner of Lakeview Drive and Lake Washington Boulevard. “Close Quarters,” two giant rabbits cuddling in a pocket park, sit near the southwest corner of Lake Street and Central Way. “Mountain Comrades,” two bears, sits on the southwest corner of Kirkland Avenue and Third Street. The bears are encased in a wooden box to protect them from construction on the corner.

The statues, all done by wildlife artist Dan Ostermiller, have been on loan to Kirkland since the early 1990s. They’re owned by real-estate developer Bill Ballantine, who has been liquidating his art collection due to financial problems. While Ballantine’s intention in displaying the art was to enhance Kirkland and increase property values, people enjoyed the sculptures scattered around downtown.

That community connection with the statues first became apparent in 2001 when Ballantine announced he was selling “The Puddle Jumpers.” The statue of children holding hands and jumping was a fixture in Marina Park. The city put up $125,000, and the community contributed another $125,000 to purchase it. In 2002, a campaign raised $175,000 to buy two others: “Cow and Coyote” and “The Water Bearers.”

With the success of the fund-raising effort, McBride is convinced that art is important to the people of Kirkland. She was excited when making yesterday’s announcement about the neighborhood donations.

“I didn’t know our neighborhoods were doing this,” she said. “They’ve never voted like this before. People usually vote for things like traffic calming or flashing crosswalk signs.”

The “Save the Animals” campaign started in October 2004. Within the first month, $70,000 was raised. The deadline has been extended twice as the total raised edged toward the goal. In April, based on the $140,000 donated at that time, Ballantine agreed to extend the deadline to the end of this month.

Lynn Stokesbary, the assistant city manager in Kirkland, noted that acquiring public art will probably be handled differently in the future. The Kirkland Cultural Council is considering ways to work with developers to add art to projects.

Although a city plan for art will be easier, it won’t be as much fun for people in City Hall.

“Every day, when we open the mail, there are checks,” Stokesbary said.

That makes McBride happy. With a mix of schoolchildren, businesses and civic groups donating, she figures the celebration party will be a big event.

“There are more than 600 donors on the list,” she said. “We’re going to block off a street for this party.”

Donations can be made to the City of Kirkland “Save the Animals Fund” at 123 Fifth Ave., Kirkland, WA 98033.

Sherry Grindeland: 206-515-5633 or sgrindeland@seattletimes.com