While the emerald ash borer isn’t native to Ohio, hundreds of thousands of ash trees ravaged by the invasive insect have been cut down in the state since 2006. Rather than have the City of Dayton remove a handful of infected trees from Highland Park, some residents of the Linden Heights and Walnut Hills neighborhoods suggested they could be turned into art.
The members of the Highland Restoration Project commissioned chainsaw artist Patrick Allred of Economy, Ind., who recently completed a series of intricate sculptures such as a bearded man, a dog treed by a fox and an owl in flight.
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“This was a good way to recycle trees that were dead anyway,” Allred said. “I started working on the carvings in late March and I was finished in late April. I carve them out with a chainsaw. Sometimes there’s a little hand-chiseling but not much. I usually hit them with a torch to burn all the fuzzy stuff off of them, I sand them a little bit and then I paint some of them with oil-based paint. After they’re painted, they get two or three coats of polyurethane.”
Allred had been working construction for three decades when he first started doing the chainsaw carvings 15 years ago. He transitioned to art full time when he was laid off two years later.
“I’ve been drawing and painting my whole life,” Allred said. “I like doing the carvings because they’re three-dimensional. It’s viewed from all sides and that makes it a little more interesting to create. And there are a lot of people out there that draw and paint so there’s not much of a demand for that. There’s quite a bit of demand for the carvings but there aren’t many people doing it.”
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During the search for an artist to repurpose the infected trees, Allred’s work caught the eye of Karl Leibfacher, the Linden Heights resident who spearheaded the Highland Restoration Project. The artwork is part of a four-phase plan to refurbish Highland Park, located at the corner of Steve Whalen Boulevard and Wyoming Avenue.
“I reached out to several artists, but Patrick was the one that had a clear vision of what to do,” Leibfacher said. “He really understood our concept, so he was the man. He exceeded my expectations, so I’m ecstatic about the work he did over there.”
The first addition to the park was a dog park. Other updates are coming, including a free children’s library, nature play attractions and an urban prairie to attract pollinators and small animals. The restoration has been financed with money from the City of Dayton’s neighborhood mini-grant program and contributions from individuals and businesses such as Woolpert and Wyoming Mini Mart.
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“We’ve been doing this to get people into Highland Park,” Leibfacher said. “It was really underused. We’ve just been trying to get creative and come up with different programs to get more people to come out there and use it. It was almost like a 12-acre empty lot, but now people are really starting to show up and use it for different things.”
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