Bear sculpture taking shape at O’side park

By Edward Sifuentes –  Originally posted here. on APRIL 9, 2014

Union Tribune


John Bear Mahoney

Edward Sifuentes

A dying tree is roaring back to life as a bear sculpture at Buddy Todd Park in Oceanside this week.

The 50-foot pine tree was infested with bark beetle and was in an awkward spot. It required frequent pruning so its branches didn’t interfere with San Diego Gas & Electric power lines near the park’s entrance on Mesa Drive.

Joel Menard, the city’s parks supervisor, said he approached John Mahoney — a chainsaw artist whose family owns West Coast Arborists — about doing something with the tree.

“I thought it’s a good, fat tree, might as well make into a bear,” Menard said Wednesday morning.

Mahoney began working on the sculpture last week, removing branches and trimming away growth to leave a towering stump.

On Wednesday morning, he filled about four different chainsaws with gas before climbing on a cherry picker to continue shaping the bear.

Mahoney — a 6-foot, 4-inch, 300-pound man with a long beard — jokingly called the half-finished sculpture a “self portrait” and said he was happy that he was asked to do it.

“It’s awesome, I’m stoked and honored,” Mahoney said. “It’s the biggest one yet for me.”

The sculpture stands about 15 feet tall and depicts a bear standing on his hind legs looking up at the sky.

West Coast Arborists contracts with the city for tree maintenance and its workers were trimming palm trees at the park this week.

Menard said the company is environmentally conscious and tries to reuse wood and trees that are cut down. The sculpture was part of its service and won’t cost the city any extra money.

He said the inspiration for the bear came from a previous sculpture that was at the park. A city employee carved that bear out of a dead tree years ago.

The bear was popular with the public, especially children, Menard said. But it had to be removed about five years ago to make way for a parking lot.

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