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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2016 6 years ago

Reclaimed wood: Oakland Park tree gets a second life

The stump of an oak tree felled by a storm gets to live a second life as a bench for those who live in Oakland Park or pass through on the West Orange Trail.
by: Jennifer Nesslar Reporter

Bicyclists pedaled along the West Orange Trail, but as they passed through Oakland Park, several slowed to admire Sam Knowles’ work.

“That’s cool,” one bicyclist called out as he passed by. 

Knowles, a chainsaw artist, sat low to the ground, carving the stump of a fallen oak tree into a bench for residents of Oakland Park, and those who pass by on the West Orange Trail, to enjoy. 

Knowles often is hired to make art out of fallen trees, but few of his projects have given him the attention like that of the West Orange Trail. 

“This is unique,” Knowles said. “All these people coming by — it’s kind of like an art show.” 

The project started a few months ago, when an oak tree in Oakland Park fell during a storm. The tree was hauled away and used for mulch, but the massive stump remained adjacent to the trail. 

Crescent Communities, the developer of Oakland Park, decided that the tree would make a great piece of art that is also functional to engage both the residents and those who come by on the trail.

“It is right on the trail,” said Thom Cunningham, vice president with Crescent Communities. “One of the things that we try to do and have done in Oakland Park — there’s no gates when you come into the community. We’re not trying to be exclusive. The whole vision for the community was really to be a neighborhood of downtown Winter Garden. So we’ve really embraced that, and this focuses on really trying to engage the people that are coming through that are not even residents. So it was a neat opportunity to capitalize on that.”

This oak tree in Oakland Park fell during a storm a few months ago.

Because the stump is so low, it posed a unique challenge for Knowles, who has to remain near the ground the entire time he creates the piece. He also needed to create designs on the bench that were appropriate to the height. 

“A lot of my influence is from Florida wildlife,” said Knowles, a resident of De Leon Springs. “I love Florida. If somebody doesn’t know what they want, I (ask), ‘What kind of Florida critters do you see in your backyard?’”

Turtles carved into the bench.

On the bench, Knowles, who previously created a piece for the West Orange Country Club, will create the Oakland Park logo, along with alligators and turtles, which complement the wildlife in Oakland Park’s surroundings and the short height of the bench. 

Knowles also thinks the tree itself is unique, because part of it was struck by lightning. That portion is blackened, while the other part maintains its original wood color. 

“It’s half dead and half alive,” he said. “There’s nothing regular about it. There’s no roundness to any of it. It was severely damaged, so some of it is antique and some of it is brand new.”

If you’d like to inquire about hiring Knowles for a piece, contact him at (386) 717-1184.


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].


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