Visitors to Cottonwood Island Nature Park in Prince George, British Columbia can walk green trails, gaze out at the intersection of the Nechako and Fraser rivers, and look for peace among the foliage.
If they take the right paths, though, they might find something else, too—a dozen artful faces, carved into the sides of the park’s black cottonwood trees.
The carvings are about the size of a human palm, intricately detailed and in surprising locations. Some look like human faces, while others are more like chipmunk-sized houses. All were made by Elmer Gunderson, a local woodcarver seeking to pay tribute to what he calls the “spirits of Cottonwood Park.”
Back in the early 1980s, Gunderson helped to supervise the original creation of the park. “We went in and cleaned up the debris, cleaned up the trails, built little bridges throughout the whole park,” he told CBC News. “It’s been in my blood for quite some time.”
There are two generations of carvings in the park—the first were added about ten years ago, at the behest of then-Mayor Colin Kinsley. “Since then, Mother Nature’s taken a couple of them and sent them down the river,” Gunderson told CBC News, so he returned this past weekend to add some new faces, some of which he based on people who stopped to ask him what he was up to.
While some are easily accessible, others are off the beaten path. Park visitors like to go on scavenger hunts to find them all, and some refer to Gunderson as the “Magic Man of Cottonwood Island.” He’s not magic—just a talented guy with a set of saws—but the park just might be.
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