An old tree destined for the wood chipper is now becoming a work of art along Harrisburg’s riverfront.
With the help of the Harrisburg Riverboat Society, artist Brad Heilman is creating intricate carvings in a hulking stump in Riverfront Park, with a second planned for City Island.
According to Riverboat Society Chairman Jeffrey Tinsman, members heard that the city was planning to dispose of the remnants of some dead trees and decided to step in and make art out of them instead.
“We’re going to preserve these trees for years to come and enhance the grounds with beautiful artwork,” he said.
Heilman’s first chainsaw carving, which is located between Walnut and Locust streets along the riverfront, is a depiction of fish that are native to the Susquehanna River.
The second carving will feature a 40-foot bat, 20-foot baseball glove and a 15-foot baseball next to City Island’s FNB Field, home to the Harrisburg Senators. According to Tinsman, the piece will commemorate the seven athletes who were born in Harrisburg and made it to the Major Leagues.
“As more of these trees fall, we are hoping to carve them into artwork,” Tinsman said.
Heilman started carving trees 19 years ago. As a kid, he loved to draw and then worked as a tree trimmer for 22 years. Now, he gets to combine the two.
Ten years ago, he worked with Harrisburg to create the Susquehannock Native American carving that’s now a familiar site next to the Walnut Street Bridge.
“This is all I do,” he said. “I get to carve all year round.”
The project is also designed to be a moneymaker, with donations going to support the Susquehanna River School, a class on the Pride of Susquehanna where students learn the history of the Susquehanna River, natural wonders and aquatic life.
“Every $10 we raise gives us an opportunity to provide an education cruise for one city school student free of charge,” Tinsman said.
For almost 21 years, the school has provided hands-on activities for students K-12 from certified teachers. According to Jason Meckes, executive director of the Harrisburg Riverboat Society, the school has already taught more than 25,000 students.
Tinsman and Heilman expect the Riverfront Park carving to be finished by Artsfest weekend starting on May 25. The second carving on City Island will be ready by the Kipona Festival in September.
“We’re just trying to do something for our community,” Tinsman said. “We love our city and want to see it enhance and grow and bring art to trees that were being disposed of.”
For more information on The Harrisburg Riverboat Society or the Susquehanna River School visit harrisburgriverboat.com. To see more of Heilman’s work visit his website at www.bdhcustomchainsawcarving.com.