- Associated Press - Thursday, May 7, 2015

BEND, Ore. (AP) - The case of a shoe tree gone bare has become somewhat of a “whodunit” mystery for Crooked River Ranch residents, who had mixed opinions about the sneaker-bearing juniper to begin with.

The tree, which sits on Bureau of Land Management land at the northeast corner of 43rd Street and Lower Bridge Way, started collecting shoes about a year ago, according to locals and the BLM.

Shoe trees aren’t uncommon in Central Oregon. The Bend Bulletin recently featured a few of the trees in a photo essay (https://is.gd/RvPGiG), including one near Alfalfa, one on Century Drive in Bend and one on U.S. Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond.

The trees usually hold a tangle of shoes by their laces, hung on the tree for a variety of celebratory reasons, from a graduation to getting married. Some neighbors in Crooked River Ranch have enjoyed the shoe tree and used it as a point of reference for visitors driving from U.S. Highway 97, but others have seen the curious landmark as a blemish on the landscape.

About three weeks ago, locals noticed a change. The tree was shoeless, but no one knew who did it or why.

“‘Hey! The shoes are gone!’” Vince Pelly, a 10-year resident of Crooked River Ranch, remembers saying to his wife as they drove by the tree.

Pelly said Wednesday he was no fan of the shoe tree, but admitted “it was kind of innocuous.” To him, it was mostly just an added eyesore to the already dying tree, which Pelly thinks got scorched in a 2010 wildfire.

“I personally consider it littering,” Pelly said. “I know no one means any harm.”

A spokeswoman with the Bureau of Land Management Prineville Office, Lisa Clark, said to her knowledge, BLM employees were not involved in removing the shoes. She said shoe trees have popped up on other BLM land and weren’t taken down. The BLM wouldn’t plan to remove shoe trees unless they were causing a problem.

“As far as we know, we didn’t do anything with the shoe tree ourselves, and we didn’t have any volunteer groups that asked about removing that,” Clark said. “It wouldn’t have been the Prineville BLM.”

Clark guesses either a volunteer group cleared the shoes and didn’t alert BLM or someone from the public did it who wanted to help clean up. It’s clear some in Crooked River Ranch thought that clean-up was needed.

“Although unique at first, I now see them as littering,” resident Jean Weaver said in an email. “Throw your old shoes into the trash rather than onto a tree for someone else to eventually have to clean up!”

Other residents saw the tree as a way of directing visitors where to turn to reach Crooked River Ranch. There is also a green sign at the T-intersection pointing drivers coming from 97 to the turn for the community of about 5,000 residents.

“It was a good landmark,” said Terry Whitted, who has lived in Crooked River Ranch for more than four years. “I liked it because it was unique.”

Whitted thinks the tree will be missed. His wife, LynnDel Whitted, also enjoyed the tree.

“I liked having it here, but I thought it needed more colorful shoes,” she said. “I was considering contributing some of my more colorful shoes and heels.”

Shoe trees, BLM’s Clark said, may not be the only tree trend on the rise. She laughed, noting a bra tree that has started between Bend and Redmond on the east side of S. U.S. Highway 97.

___

Information from: The Bulletin, https://www.bendbulletin.com


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