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Idyllwild’s Tree Monument: A Tempestuous Timeline

When you drive into a town to see an unusual monument, do you ever wonder what had to happen to get it there? Sometimes it takes more than you might think….

sketchTake the mountain town of Idyllwild, California. On May 15, 2007, it gave $7,000 to a local resident to carve a “tree monument.”  It was to be an elaborate, totem-esque uber-creation, the kind of art usually only seen in metal or concrete, and it would replace a beloved older tree monument that had fallen to woodpeckers and wood rot.  The carver, David Roy, said that he’d have it ready by Halloween 2007, no problem.

By September 2008, the local newspaper began to ask where the monument was.  “I’m working fast,” Roy insisted. “There’s been nothing like this carved anywhere … It’s going to be a very famous monument.”

In late October, a year after the promised deadline, several supporters rallied to Roy’s defense, calling his work “a gargantuan effort” and “so beautiful in its detail that Idyllwild grumblers will forget about the long delay.”

But on January 1, 2009, things got more complicated.  The carver of the original tree monument offered to bypass Roy and carve the replacement himself.  “I have deep emotional ties to this project,” he wrote to the Chamber of Commerce.  He also pledged to do the work for free, and he promised to be finished by Thanksgiving.

In the two weeks that followed, everybody in town had an opinion, including Roy, who called the new proposal “unethical” and asked, “Why’s he after my job?”  Roy also reportedly told someone that his monument could be finished by June, but when we asked Chamber president Bill Triplett, he estimated that it was still only 25 percent complete.

“All we want is to see something up,” Bill said, adding that Roy is “super-talented” and “a great guy.”  With luck, Idyllwild should have one — maybe even two — tree monuments by December 2009.  But that’s what the town thought in 2008, and 2007.

“Absolutely,” said Bill, “never in my life did I ever imagine anything like this.”

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