After a fire ravaged the landscape along the Paseo del Bosque trail in Albuquerque, N.M., firefighter Mark Chavez did what anyone in his position would do: he picked up his chainsaw and made some art.
The Paseo del Bosque trail is a 16 mile multi-use trail running through the heart of the city, along the forested banks of the Rio Grande. In 2003, teenagers playing with fireworks inadvertently sparked a wildfire that spread to over 250 acres, causing numerous evacuations and untold damage to the lands and trails along the riverfront. Chavez, one of the firefighters who helped to put out the blaze, looked over the charred husks of cottonwood trees that were left and decided to do something about it.
A chainsaw artist in his free time, Chavez went to work sculpting the dead trees into symbols honoring both the natural beauty of the Southwest and the fire itself. Sculptures include an eagle rising from flames, coyotes, beavers, a roadrunner, La Llorona (the “ditch witch” of Mexican folklore), and a firefighter standing upon a slain dragon – “dragon” being fireman slang for an especially bad fire.
The sculpture garden resides in the Pueblo Montaño trailhead of the Paseo del Bosque, surrounded by picnic tables, redeveloping flora, and some of the very same wildlife Chavez carved into the cottonwoods.