A beloved Menomonie public artwork has a new place of honor in Cedarama Park, next to Lake Menomin, after being taken down in 2017 for restoration.
The statue of a bearded lumberjack, leaning against a tree with an axe in his grip, has occupied the park since 2009, said Joe Jax, chairman of the Menomonie Urban Forestry Board.
The board was wondering what to do with a dead white oak tree found on the bank of Cedarama Park that year, and decided to turn it into art honoring the city’s lumbering history.
Instead of burning the tree or salvaging the wood, the city asked chainsaw artist Justin Howland of Maple, Wis., to carve the tree. A grant through the Community Foundation of Dunn County, along with local donations, raised $4,000 to pay for the project, city urban forestry specialist John Johnson said in an email.
In 2017, when the carving was nearly eight years old, city staff found termites and weather had taken their toll on the sculpture.
City staff clean the sculpture each spring, but in 2017 they noticed rot at its base, Jax said: “It was either going to fall over eventually, or we could save it by carving out the rot.”
The lumberjack was stored at the Parks Department until the weather allowed for treatment — then crews removed the sculpture from its original wooden base, filled the rotted material with an epoxy product, re-sealed the wood and poured a solid cement slab for a new base, Johnson said.
Ashley Anderson of Anderson Bridges in Colfax built a steel base and brackets to better support the sculpture, and crews reassembled the lumberjack using a crane, Johnson said.
Funds for the restoration came from original donations and grant money, Jax said.
The city had another decision to make, however.
“It wasn’t in the most advantageous position where people driving or walking by could see it,” Jax said. “We decided to relocate the carving further west, right next to the park overlooking Lake Menomin. It’s a beautiful area. More visible, more accessible.”
The lumberjack was placed at its new perch at Crescent Street and 6th Avenue in October 2018. With the renovations, Jax hopes the statute will last several more decades.
He also hopes, as he did in 2009, that the lumberjack will encourage other works of art in city parks.
It has already inspired Menomonie author and then-UW-Stout professor David Tank to write a children’s book, “The Lumberjack and the Eagle” in 2012 about the fictionalized lumberjack’s exploits.
“(We hope) art would also be erected around the lakebank for tourists and passerby and citizens,” Jax said. “That it would somehow encourage what is our past historically, and how the town developed, the basis of lumbering and forestry here. … It’s part of our heritage.”