A chainsaw art sculpture of a bald eagle in flight will become a monument to a falconry volunteer who helped to create the Carbon County Environmental Education Center's Birds of Prey program.
The four-foot wingspan carving, "Soaring Eagle," was donated to the CCEEC by Jeff Wartluft, a Lehighton-based forestry consultant, and Rick Mack, owner of The Cutting Edge - Chainsaw Art, in Brodheadsville.
The sculpture memorializes Frederick Renshaw Wallace, who provided the original training of the CCEEC's Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle.
"When he found out we had these eagles and would be able to keep them under a permit, Fred volunteered his time," said naturalist Franklin Klock. "He said, 'I'm a master falconer and I would consider it a great honor if you would allow me to work with these birds.'
"That's exactly what he did. He would sit and read in the cage, just to get the birds used to him. He leathered them up, and did all our programs at first."
Wallace died four years ago during a demonstration.
"He trained the Golden Eagle so well that, when he died, she road his glove to the floor," Klock noted.
"We had been working with him but none of us had handled these birds regularly," Klock continued. "We looked at each other and I stepped up. It's a neat experience, one of the highlights of my job."
Since Wallace's passing, the CCEEC has been searching for a fitting memorial. Klock had previously stopped at The Cutting Edge to talk about the project with Mack.
"The pricing was out of our range," Klock said. "I thought, maybe some day, some way."
Then, he was approached by Wartluft. Wartluft had been supplying wood to Mack and had him carve an eagle sculpture for his home. He approached Klock at the CCEEC and showed him the model. Klock showed it to the staff and they liked it.
Wartluft supplied the white pine timber, and he and Mack worked out the pricing between them and decided to donate the statue to the center. It has been located near the eagle display.
"I'm always amazed at how an artist can pull something like this out of a piece of wood," said chief naturalist Susan Gallagher. "Not just the bird itself but how anatomically correct it is and that it's made out of one piece of wood."
"What a beautiful thing to have here," added naturalist Jeannie Carl. "It's a wonderful addition."
Rick Mack began his chainsaw art eight years ago.
"I was driving through Jersey when I saw a guy alongside the road carving a huge eagle," Mack said. "One wing was completely detailed. He did it with a chain saw. I started playing around in my driveway and couldn't stop."
Since then he's made hundreds of eagles, bears and just about every creature you can imagine. For his first eagle chainsaw carving, he picked up several ceramic eagle sculptures to use as a model. He currently appears at the Carbon County Fair and the Shawnee Lumberjack Festival.
For information, see: www.carboneec.org.