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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - July/August 1997

The Phoenix

by Kathy A. Conrad

Trees litter the land like fallen soldiers. The ground is scraped bare. It's not a pretty sight - it's site preparation for road construction. At the time, it's hard to imagine that something more than a new road could result from the demolition.

But that's where you're wrong. Sometimes a phoenix rises from the ashes. In this case, life-size replicas of Canadian geese, tundra swans, Hawaiian nene geese, and Japanese cranes were "born" from downed trees.


In a natural setting, this "flock" of life-size wooden Canadian Geese appear lifelike. The geese were sculptured by Roger Long from trees cut down to acccomodate a highway-widening project.

These graceful images, created by Oregon artist Roger Long, have a link to a state highway that goes back more than a half century. The wood from which these birds were carved came from a row of sequoia trees planted in 1936 along Oregon Highway 99E in Milwaukie to honor men lost in World War I.

In 1992, 14 of the 80 sequoias, some with more than 1.2-meter diameters, were cut down to widen the highway, which was one of the roads designated by the Oregon legislature in 1947 as a Blue Star Memorial Drive to salute soldiers who served in World War II. The regrettable, but necessary, removal of the trees saddened the community, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and ODOT's contractor.

Long, a native Oregonian who had watched the trees grow from saplings to towering sentinels, sought ODOT's support for his commemorative project, and with ODOT's blessing, Long's memorial flock took flight.

pr97p60bMore than 80 percent of the sequoia trees along state Highway 99E in Milwaukie, Ore., were saved during the project to widen the highway. The section of the expanded highway shown here is lined by sequoia trees.

The body of each bird is carved from the falling wedges of the trees; the neck and head come from the long, curved branches. Fifty years of growth lines can be seen in the finely hand- and lathe-tooled bodies. Long's labor of love took three years to complete.

When on display, the long-necked birds rest upon nests of dried clematis and ivy vines with reed, rush, water iris, and grass. Wooden eggs, each with a blue star, lie close by. Only seven of the original 18 carvings remain on the market.

This tribute to nature is part of Long's lifelong mission. In his own words, Long says he was put on this earth to record the world around him. He expresses his love for nature through several art media.

Long's art is displayed and sold throughout Oregon and Washington state.

Replica of an HistoricLongboat

In the same project, three oak trees, one of which was 200 years old, were donated to the city of Vancouver, Wash., for a special bicentennial project. The trees were used to build a replica of the British longboat used 200 years ago by Lt. William Broughton to explore and chart about 160 kilometers of the Columbia River. During his expedition, Broughton passed the site of Vancouver and named the place for his captain, George Vancouver. The replica was constructed by Douglas Brooks of Portland, Ore.

Kathy A. Conrad is a public affairs representative for the Oregon Department of Transportation.