Staff Writer

GREENFIELD — Upset that an old, large tree had to be cut down last fall, a local park maintenance man decided to use his tools of the trade to bring a woodland creature to life.

It took a few months once the tree came down, but a new feature as been added to Riley Park in the form of a large bear sculpture.

Greenfield Parks superintendent Ellen Kuker said the tree was located a little too close for comfort to the shelter house building and, though old and established, had to be cut down because of safety concerns.

“It was dropping limbs,” Kuker said. “Unfortunately, it had to come down.”

At that point, she and other staff members began to discuss what to do with the 8-foot stump. They knew they wanted to add another visual element to the park but didn’t know exactly what that would be.

“I found a (James Whitcomb) Riley poem that references a bear, and that’s when we decided to do the sculpture,” Kuker said. “From that point on, we only ever thought about a bear sculpture.”

Kuker said the park was looking into wood carving artists, which could have cost upwards of $900, when staff member Josh Gentry approached her about grabbing his chainsaw and giving it a go.

“It was about that time when this guy pipes up and says he wanted a crack at it,” Kuker said.

Gentry said he had never even attempted to create something from wood before he took his power tool to the large stump, but that he watched several YouTube videos about creating the artwork before he started. In the end, he said he was extremely pleased with the way the bear carving turned out.

“I’m proud of him,” Gentry said. “He turned out much better than expected.”

In total, the bear took more than 12 hours to complete. In addition to the chainsaw, Gentry also used an angle grinder and blow torch to finish the sculpture.

“It may just be one sculpture,” Kuker said. “But it’s one awesome sculpture.”

Kuker added that while there are no immediate plans to add additional sculptures to the park, she would be open to Gentry creating more.

“I don’t know if I’ll do more in the park,” Gentry said. “But I had fun, and I’m sure I’ll do a few on my own soon.”

The park is sponsoring a contest to name the shelter bear, and residents can submit their favorite name for the sculpture via the parks department’s Facebook page,

“It’s wonderful; my office looks out where the bear is, and I’ve already seen kids crawling all over it,” Kuker said. “It’s such a great addition to the park.”