It’s quite a tree.
Big, sprawling and robust — the magnificent tree at the Cortez Library is an impressive landmark.
Officially, it’s a Globe Navajo Willow. With it’s sloped truck, it literally begs children, and the occasional spry adult, to glide up the globe and relax on its inviting limbs.
It has an almost haunting, Halloween-like appearance.
It’s quite a tree.
No doubt, as people who frequent Montezuma Avenue and the library have probably noticed, the wooden books and bear that added to the tree’s nuances have been replaced.
After more than 15 sturdy years, the books and bear have been bumped out. Their effectiveness, their shelf life, depleted with years of supporting the massive tree branches.
The books and bear were more than just cosmetic additions. They served a purpose — to protect those huge limbs from breaking and the mammoth trunk from splitting.
The bear and books were rotted and the limbs were starting to sag again, according to Mark Boblitt, Cortez parks superintendent.
“We needed to replace them, they were rotten and they weren’t offering the support necessary to the tree,” Boblitt said.
They needed a new plan and they went right to the same guy who carved the bear and the books.
Ken Braun, owner of Rustic Arts in Cortez, was contracted to carve replacements.
Way back in 1996, the carved bear with its arms raised upward bracing the huge branch on the library side was installed and fittingly, a stack of wooden books, painted several different colors was placed under the branch on the Montezuma Avenue side.
Braun has been waiting ever since to be asked to replace them.
“That was one of my first carvings that I did,” he said about the bear.
Not a bad carving but one that he knew could improve. So as he traveled by the tree over the years, he would just hope that someday he would be get the call to replace his original carvings.
“I always wanted to carve worms to put in there,” he said.
After submitting eight drawings of different carvings, the city picked his worms, and Braun cranked up the chainsaw and the wood start flying.
Now a worm sitting on an apple that has a worm hole in it supports the limb in the front and another worm, with a nifty little seat on the back, supports the huge limb near the library parking lot.
Like the painted books, the worms also have a library connection.
“They’re bookworms, or inch worms,” Braun said with a shrug.
Boblitt said the project cost around $1,200 with funds shared through library donations and the parks department.
The carvings serve as a better alternative to attaching support cables to the tree, Boblitt said.
This is quite a tree.
The glorious globe even achieved a level of celebrity. If there is such a thing for trees.
Like sex symbols through the years, the library tree with its beguiling bark and full foliage found its way into a calendar, and on the cover no less.
The 2011 Notable Trees of Colorado calendar from the Colorado Tree Coalition, featured the wondrous willow for its month of May tree as well as the cover shot. It was just one of two Western Slope trees in the calendar. The other was from Carbondale.
According to the small calendar write-up, Cortez’s stupendous stump was planted back in 1969 when the library was built. In the 1980s, the notorious wicked winds that whip through Cortez battered the gracious globe, damaging the tree. The city looked at options of how to save and protect the barked gem.
That’s when they decided to ask Braun to create some unique carvings to help support the heavy limbs.
Today, the books and bears have given way to a pair of bookworms. But the mission that has been carved out for these creations remains the same — to protect this Cortez landmark.
For Boblitt, who’s been admiring that Globe Navajo Willow since he moved to Cortez 32 years ago, that tree is quite terrific.
“It’s neat to think that generations of kids have climbed that tree,” he said.
And thanks to books, bears and now a pair of bookworms, this wondrous willow will continue to welcome admiring glances and eager climbers for generations to come.
Reach Dale Shrull at [email protected]