By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For the past three years, one of more unusual points of interest in Keizer have been two dead, branchless Douglas fir trees in front of Keizer Civic Center.

They might remain that way for another two years, but plans are finally in motion to turn them into something else – story poles telling the tale of Keizer.

“They will not be totem poles, they will depict the history of our area and I’m sure it will include things like rivers, irises and maybe even the face of Thomas Dove Keizur,” said Lore Christopher, former Keizer mayor and current member of the Keizer Public Art Commission (KPAC).

Two Douglas fir trunks near the Keizer Civic Center could be turned into story poles by 2019. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Christopher spoke to the Keizer City Council at its meeting Monday, June 19. KPAC is working with a grant writer to apply for project funding and needed an endorsement from the council, and a designation of the area around the trees as public art space, to meet the Oregon Community Foundation application deadline of July 15.

“This has been several years in the making, but I’m excited that it’s cultural and it will be a great asset to the community,” said Councilor Amy Ryan.

Two ailing fir trees were cut down to the trunk in 2014, but then-Mayor Christopher implored city staff to keep the trunks intact with the hope of finding someone to carve them.

In documents presented to the council, the cost is estimated at $75,000 and includes everything from the actual carving (approx. $25,000) to dedication of the land, staff time and the value of the poles themselves.

The endorsement requested from the city council included covering the costs of continued maintenance in the form of a pest-resistant sealant that needs to be applied every two to five years ($350 per coating) and insurance costs of up to $1,000 annually. One outstanding question is whether the poles will require braces once the project is complete.

Christopher also submitted a timeline for action.

“We will organize community meetings to take input and develop the images that will go on the poles,” Christopher said. “Then we will have a final charette to bring all the ideas together.”

Christopher hopes to begin design meetings in August and continue through February 2018, and to select an artist for the carving in late 2018. She said the process would resemble The Big Toy planning more than the Iris Festival Mural design process.

Project endorsements were also forthcoming from KPAC and the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, Christopher said.

The city won’t hear back on the Oregon Community Foundation grant until late 2017 or early 2018. The actual carving of the poles would not begin until March 2019, according to the projected timeline.