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Calgary Woodturners Guild has unique proposal to repurpose Stampede Elm wood


The Calgary Woodturners Guild has reached out to the city with a unique proposal to make use of wood from the Stampede Elm.

Terry Golbeck, the program director for the guild, would like to see the wood distributed between non-profit woodworking clubs in the city, then have their finished pieces put on display at the Calgary Stampede at a booth honouring the elm.

"I'd like to see the pieces go into the arts and crafts auction and then the proceeds go to the Alberta Junior Forest Wardens," he said.

"Because these are people who plant trees, they learn about trees as kids and I think it would elevate their profile and the kids can see the value of being part of planting trees."

Golbeck says the tree has sentimental value and it could be used to educate Calgarians about the urban forest.

"All trees that are growing in a northern climate have a distinctive grain because of the slow growth in the fall and early spring and then the fast growth in the summer," he said.

"But elms have a normal grain going up and down the tree where it's taking nutrients but they also have some cross grain for strength, it makes it particularly challenging to work with it and an interesting grain pattern when you do."

Golbeck says he received an email from the city, but it didn't provide an immediate answer to his proposal.

"The person who emailed me said that they liked the ideas and that they would forward them to a committee who was considering what's going to happen to the tree," he said. "But even if the tree is rotten in its core, there's a lot that could still be done with it."

Norm Olsen, the president of the guild, has been turning wood since the late 1990s. He says while he was working, he'd come to his backyard shop to unwind.

"Now that I'm retired, I still enjoy coming out here," he said. "I love making things, that's the nice thing with wood turning, you can come out for a few hours or a day and you've got something finished."

He and other guild members are excited at the prospect of making items out of the Stampede Elm.

"If it's a sound piece of wood, you have to work around cracks or features, but everything's usable," he said.

"We've got guys that make pens, they don't take much wood, we have guys that make huge live edge pieces so there's not really a limit there, it's just your imagination, you could make anything."

Tim Watts is a board member with the Alberta Junior Forest Wardens and says the organization is open to students from grades one to 12.

The programs teach them outdoor skills along with respect for their surroundings and are funded through memberships and government grants. Watts says any money from the Guild's Elm project would be welcome.

"It'd be fantastic for our programming," he said. "We do all kinds of fantastic things from hiking, canoeing, horseback riding, target shooting, so it just helps offset on the cost for our programming, it can definitely do a lot of good."

The Stampede Elm is located just north of the Scotiabank Saddledome in a parking lot off 12th Avenue, S.E. and is estimated to be 125 years old. The historic tree will be removed sometime in April to make way for the construction of the new Event Centre.

Guild members say they can provide expertise on how to harvest and process the tree and see the project as a way to appreciate the sentimental value of the elm and increase public awareness of the role of urban trees in Calgary.

Learn more about the Calgary Woodturners Guild on its website. Top Stories

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