- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Trees that were bent and broken by a record snowstorm have been coming down by the hundreds this spring as work crews finish what Mother Nature started.

But in the shadows of the city’s towering old grain elevators, some of the old logs are being resurrected by a buzzing chain saw.

Artist Rick Pratt has been carving larger-than-life likenesses of city-connected luminaries — such as former President Millard Fillmore and architect Frank Lloyd Wright — from the 2,000-pound logs.

When the “Carvings for a Cause” project is done, 40 to 80 carvings will stand sentinel around the area as a tourist attraction.

“Our hope is that people will be able to go out and visit the carvings, maybe get their picture next to them, maybe it might even evoke some question or learning about it,” Mr. Pratt said. “And all of this is coming from trees that are standing silent.”

On a recent morning, Mr. Pratt coaxed the Indian chief Red Jacket from the trunk of a 200-year-old tulip poplar with precise swipes of his 12-inch carving saw. Wood chips and sawdust flittered into a pile underfoot.

All of the sculptures are carved from fallen old-growth trees — including oaks, maples and magnolias — pummeled by a 22-inch snowfall that arrived Oct. 12.

The storm was freakish even in this snow-worn city on the eastern shore of Lake Erie. It is still measuring the damage seven months later.

By some estimates, as many as 90 percent of the damaged trees are in Buffalo and its suburbs, including an estimated 58,690 that must be replaced.

The art project was the idea of Therese Forton-Barnes, an event planner and author who, like so many who live there, was heartbroken by the snowstorm’s devastation to Buffalo’s treasured system of interconnected parks, parkways and circles. It was envisioned in 1868 by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.

“The roots of these trees are as deep as the roots of this community,” she said. “These trees were here when all of our ancestors were here and all of our relatives, and to just see them cut down and chipped up crushed my heart.”

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