Wood sculpting by Evan Hughes

Wood sculpting by Evan Hughes.

Does it seem that you constantly hear a lot of chainsaws whining and see a lot of tree guys driving around? Every year, the amount of wood removed from urban locations is greater than the lumber removed from America’s national forests.

This realization, along with an awareness that nearly all ash trees would be doomed by the emerald ash borer, led the USDA to fund a new initiative in 2014. This program attempts to raise awareness that trees like the one that slowed traffic as your children biked underneath are not condemned to the firewood pile or merely to mulch someone’s landscape dream.

Because of the proven importance of mature trees, I am a preservationist. So I embrace the first value of the USDA-funded Urban Wood Network:

“Urban trees have their highest value while living. When these trees need to be removed they should be put to their highest and best uses to maximize their economic, environmental and societal benefits for people in urban areas and beyond.”

This principle means that there is a wealth of value lying between the “all” of a healthy tree and the “nothing” of BTU’s.

So urban wood reclamation was on my mind when I found out that local professional ice carver Evan Hughes just opened a custom furniture workshop in the Abingtons. The carvings Hughes is most known for sometimes begin to melt as soon as he unplugs his specialty chainsaw. So it made perfect sense that he would seek to invest his skills in a product whose value could continue for generations after its last leaf fell.

Hughes describes his “desire to make heirloom furniture and meaningful objects.”

“There may have been an oak tree on your property that was a part of your family for generations,” he explains. “It isn’t just an oak tree. It’s our oak tree. The particular one that my grandfather carved his initials into as a child. The tree I tried to climb and broke my arm falling out of. The tree we hung a tire swing from etc.”

This same wood can continue to be part of memory creation in the future of a family.

“To make a quality dining table out of that oak tree for example, would allow it to be the center of family feasting and fellowship for many more years,” Hughes said. “In this way it can still share all the meaning and memories of the past, and continue to gather more over the years.”

Sentimentality expands into wonder when special wood takes a special place in human lives.

“You can’t find a wardrobe that takes you to Narnia at IKEA,” Hughes added.

Like a precious family pet, special trees sometimes need to be “put down.” But in contrast to the family dog, that tree can have a new life in your family.

Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at josarhuap@aol.com.

Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified municipal specialist, Clarks Summit’s municipal arborist and an operator of an organic lawn and landscape maintenance business. Reach him at josarhuap@aol.com.

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