OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

A lost tree gives new life

Posted on: July 23rd, 2014 in News & Press |

Barlow Tollgate Road Maple Heritage Tree lives on

Oregon Travel Experience Heritage Tree Program Peter McDonald Memorial Bench

At its recent July meeting, OTE’s Oregon Heritage Tree Program Committee members participated in several special actions.

Committee member Doug Grafe, Fire Protection Deputy Chief with the Oregon Department of Forestry, unveiled a labor of love: a memorial tribute bench made from the gnarly wood of a former heritage tree.

Doug Grafe Oregon Heritage Tree Committee, master craftsmanIn 2011 a pair of Oregon Heritage Trees gracing US Hwy 26 suffered a major loss when one of the Barlow Road Tollgate Maples developed devastating rot. The 60-foot tree was cut down to three 20-foot stems at the base of the trunk. The Heritage Tree Committee salvaged the Tollgate’s wood from the Oregon Department of Transportation and stored it until it could be milled.

Longtime Heritage Tree Committee member Peter McDonald, whose barn the wood was cured in, passed away last year. Although the committee had not formally decided on a purpose for all of the wood, there was consensus among the group that some of it be used to craft a memorial for McDonald’s family.

Grafe was part of the team responsible for caring for the Barlow Road Tollgate wood and for creating a memorial bench for McDonald’s tribute piece. The finished bench was the result of months spent by Grafe in a local woodworking workshop. Grafe delivered the piece to OTE for display before it is donated to the McDonald family.

What is remarkable about the bench is its striking grain, organic symmetry and the care which Grafe inserted pegs and applied hand-rubbed finish. Oregon Travel Experience will sponsor a plaque for the bench that will highlight Peter McDonald’s contributions to the program.

You can see more photos from the recent meeting and images of the wood and finished products in the image gallery at the bottom of this page.

A portrait captured in a burl marks second chapter in life

Image of Oregon Travel Experience's Jim Renner and Al Tocchini of the Oregon Heritage Tree Program When the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee was formed in 1995, OTE’s Jim Renner was appointed its first administrator. Renner worked alongside program founder Maynard Drawson, and over the years developed strong relationships with both current and past committee members.

In 2010 Renner handed the program reins over to its current administrator, Annie von Domitz, and moved onwards in the agency to help OTE launch its supervised highway safety rest area model. Following that success, he settled into Policy and Rules advising. Renner retired earlier this year after serving the public for several decades and the tree committee searched for a meaningful way to honor his contributions to the program.

A craftsman much like Grafe, committee member (and outgoing committee chair) Al Tocchini selected a chunk of the Barlow Tollgate Maple trunk and carved a likeness of Samuel Kimbrough Barlow, wagon train pioneer and original Barlow Road Tollgate gatekeeper. The carving was presented to Renner by Tocchini at the meeting. A small brass plaque on the gift reads: “For ‘wagon-master’ Jim Renner on his retirement, May 2014.”

The wide reach of knotty branches

Image of Doug Grafe and newly elected Chair of the Oregon Heritage Committee Roger Brandt, unload milled lumber from the Barlow Tollgate MapleThe Barlow Tollgate Road Maple wood will find renewed life in the coming year. Among the many potential uses for the wood the committee is considering are plaques for a new award (being introduced later this year in Maynard Drawson’s name) and for hand crafted items that can be sold in the Oregon Capitol Building Gift Shop.

Giftware such as pens or wine accessories would raise money for the Oregon Heritage Tree Program, which operates on a small stipend and depends upon volunteer work and endowment contributions.

The majestic heritage Barlow Maple may have suffered a blow to Oregon’s roster of historic trees, but in the end, the wood may provide fresh beginnings and inspiration as well as a new source of funding. The wide reaching program hopes to engage the latest generation of tree lovers across the state.

Want to help strengthen the Oregon Heritage Tree Program?

The Oregon Heritage Tree Committee is seeking a volunteer to claim an open position on its committee. If you have an interest and background in Oregon history, Oregon agriculture, or historic preservation, please contact OTE’s Heritage Program administrator for more information.

Our search is focused on someone outside of the arborist/horticulture/tree industry, since our committee has enough professional advisors from this field presently. We are in need a member with an Oregon history, culture, or natural and living history background.

If you join this great team, we promise tremendous fun, camaraderie and an opportunity to see many wonderful locations and trees across Oregon, make new friends, and help guide the program into the future.

Here’s where to learn more about the program.

Image Gallery

Go ahead and dive into the fun. Click on each thumbnail to view the image full size.

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