Rotted wood sculpture removed from RCMP Operational Command Centre

Sherry Martell
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TRURO - A soft tug of a chain and the landscape on Prince Street was changed.

Insp. Philip Johnson, officer in charge of the RCMP H division Operational Command Centre, located on Prince Street in Truro, looks at the weather-worn remains of a tree sculpture that stood outside his office for 14 years. He hopes the top of the sculpture can be repaired and placed permanently in the building.

A smooth, flat stump is all that remains of a once five-metre tall carving of an RCMP officer that had stood resolutely in front of the provincial RCMP Operational Command Centre until Tuesday.

"It's sad to see it gone," said Insp. Philip Johnson, officer in charge. "Unfortunately, it reached a point it was going to fall over if something wasn't done."

The sculpture, carved in the trunk of an elm tree to reflect the image of an officer dressed in the ceremonial red surge, was a beacon for residents during the past 14 years. It was dedicated to former Truro resident and Staff Sgt. Al Burke, who had served with the force for 35 years.

Typical Nova Scotia weather has taken its toll on the wood, which has been slowly decaying, patched and repaired time after time with wood putty and wire mesh.

"They didn't have to cut it down. They literally just tugged on it and it just came away," said Johnson. "The wood is just mush."

Rot destroyed the bottom of the sculpture, causing its carved boots to crumble, however, Johnson is hopeful the solid upper body may be salvageable.

"We've got him resting comfortably out in our garage at the back," he said.

He added it will take an estimated two months for the fallen Mountie to dry out before a firm decision on its future will be made.

He is hopeful, with some reconstruction, the sculpture will become a permanent fixture in the building's lobby where Burke's photo still hangs.

"His boots are rotted so those would have to be rebuilt like a wooden stand," said Johnson "It's what we are hoping for."

Andrew Williams, Town of Truro's urban forestry co-ordinator, said the carving was the second tree sculpture that was removed in the town last week. The one at Eagle's Landing mini mall on Prince street was also taken down.

"That was actually damaged in the winds from tropical storm Arthur and they tried to reattach one of the eagles that was still in good condition to retain it," said Williams.

"But unfortunately when they had the sling hooked on it to try and take it down it was decayed in the middle and it kind of just crumpled, so it couldn't be saved."

He said of the 43 Truro elm tree sculptures created since the project was launched in 1999, there are just 14 pieces left, including the Burke memorial, which he is confident will be patched. "They are continuing to decay and we will continue to lose them until there are none left," said Williams.

"When we started it, we had no idea where it was going to go," he said. "It snowballed, it was beyond anybody's expectations. It was well received by residents and visitors alike. It definitely was a boon to tourism."

He said the project also served as a model for other communities.

Johnson said even if the sculpture can't be saved and moved indoors a plaque recognizing the project and its significance will be placed in the foyer.

"I felt a sense of sadness to see such a lovely carving taken down," said the operations manager.

"First of all, because it was well-known and well-photographed by many who saw it and it was dedicated to a fine member of the RCMP."

If the wooden Mountie can be reconstructed, Johnson is also hoping to have its present light brown hue painted in full colour.

Factbox

- In January 2014, the town removed the Vera Clyke-inspired sculpture from the corner of Ford and Robie streets after it was targeted by vandals.

- The elm tree sculptures project began in 1999.

- At completion of project there were a total of 43 sculptures created in recognition of local historic figures and aspects of Truro and area.

- As of July 18, 2014 there are 14 pieces remaining.

 

 

Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: Truro, Ford

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  • Rosemary Clark
    July 22, 2014 - 18:57

    These statues can be easily saved with a wood restoration product sold at Onslow Historic Lumber in downtown Truro. The product can be used to literally rebuild any wood that has fallen away and to restore any wood that has rotted. It was used to restore the Statue of Liberty!