Big John Mahoney turns redwood logs into story time benches at Menlo Park Library

by Linda Hubbard on August 9, 2019

Chainsaw artist Big John Mahoney of Street Tree Revival has been busy this week carving new story time benches near the Menlo Park Library.  The redwood logs were reclaimed from the trees cut down at the corner of Ravenswood and El Camino, an action that sparked controversy earlier this year.

The two benches will form an outdoor mini-amphitheater where children can listen to storytelling and learn about science, and adults can enjoy a resting spot.

Asked how he decides what to carve, John answered: “It has to tickle my fancy — and be a bit challenging. For the first bench, I started with the owl and then tucked in the books.”

He hopes to finish the second bench over the weekend. It will also have an owl and book motif.

John said he’s been carving for nine years, although this is his second Menlo Park project. The first was carving the trees at Fremont Park that today provide climbing fun for youngsters.

Park Supervisor Bill Halleck explained that the project was an effort by the City of Menlo Park to reduce waste and beautify the Civic Center campus.

“As part of the permit conditions of the project, logs from removed redwood trees were delivered to the City by the property manager, Matteson Investments, in partnership with NOVO Construction. Additional logs are being milled for use in affordable housing projects.

“The funds for this art project at the Civic Center came from the tree maintenance budget for the Parks.”

Street Tree Revival’s focus is on urban wood recycling. It evolved from a 12- month trial program between West Coast Arborists, Inc. (WCA, Inc.) and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF).

The recycling pilot program proved to be successful, and WCA, Inc. has expanded member efforts to help reduce California’s carbon footprint and now provides all their suitable logs and slabs to the Street Tree Revival program.

Explains the Street Tree Revival website: “All trees have a life cycle, so we are making every effort to save the trees we can from ending up in landfills. We are harvesting a number of trees lost during storms, disease, or normal senescence and recycling this wood into useable raw lumber. Our pieces offer a story unlike any other found in a lumber yard or furniture store as they’ve been salvaged from our city streets — a true street tree revival.”

Photos by Robb Most (c) 2019


Kat Warren August 09, 2019 at 8:49 pm

Where can I hug this man?! He rocks.

Nancy Nelson Jaroch August 09, 2019 at 10:16 pm

I am so impressed with Big John’s artistry. Just beautiful!! I collect owls and books so doubly impressed. I’ve been going to Menlo Park Library since grammar school and I am now 64 years old. I have some woodcarving in my blood too. My Grandfather Martin Nelson owned the Barn wood shop at the Allied Arts Guild in Menlo Park. My father also learned the craft there. Someone else has had it now for decades but it will always be Grandpa’s shop.

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