In recognition of its commitment to community forestry, Tallahassee, Florida, has been named a ‘Tree City USA’ community by the Arbor Day Foundation for the past 24 years. It was no surprise, then, that when a 160 year-old live oak tree located in the parking area of the county’s main public library in downtown Tallahassee was deemed unhealthy and unsafe, officials came up with a solution that honored both the tree and the library.
Local chainsaw artist John Birch came up with a design that would keep the tree’s original structure while recognizing its location. When the branches and canopy of the majestic 60-foot tree were removed, a tall section of the main trunk was left in place. After scaffolding was erected, Birch began work on the public art piece. Working four days a week for about four months, he “recycled” the tree.
Wood from the tree branches was used to carve parts of the design. There is a boy lounging among tree branches, reading a book. A father peeks out of a hole in the tree. A young girl—based after the artist’s niece and standing more than 5 feet tall—wears a hard had while standing amid the beginnings of tree fort. A shelf of books is carved into one side of the tree; the artist cut his initials and the date into the spine of one.
Where there might have been an empty spot had people not come together for a creative solution, there now stands a huge sculpture made from the wood of the once-majestic tree.