LAKE GEORGE — A canoe rising from a solid block of pine is generating quite the buzz on Route 9.
The buzz may be coming from sculptor Paul Stark’s chainsaw, as he carves a 24-foot-long wooden sculpture that includes a frontiersman and American Indians paddling a canoe. People are stopping to take photographs of and admire the sculpture, which is being created on property near the Warrensburg town line.
“We’ve had a number of people stop by,” he said. “They’re blown away.”
The work began in late May. Stark said he puts in at least eight hours a day on the project and estimated he is about two weeks away from completion.
“It’s going good,” he said.
The sculpture began as an initiative by Lake George residents Kim and Rod Cornelius. They had hired Stark to do a project for their house, and last fall over dinner, he shared his idea to create a life-sized sculpture of Indians in a canoe to commemorate the Lake George region’s role in the French and Indian War.
Stark is from Sisters, Oregon but has a studio in Bethel, New York. He has done projects in every state in the union except Alaska.
The Corneliuses approached Mayor Robert Blais, who was enthusiastic about the idea. The Village Board has contributed $10,000 toward the roughly $100,000 cost of the project. The Corneliuses have been taking pledges.
Once completed, the sculpture will be located on Beach Road in front of Fort William Henry. Some viewfinders are being moved to make room for it.
The eastern white pine tree used for the sculpture came from the Catskill Mountains, according to Stark. The tree was chosen because its wood is easier for carving.
The section used for the sculpture was about 29 feet long and measured about 4 1/2 feet in diameter at its widest point. The length of wood weighed about 14,000 pounds before carving.
Stark said this has probably been the most difficult piece he has ever worked on because of its intricate detail, with six heads that are turned in different directions.
“I’ve never done a piece with human figures and interaction between characters in this way,” he said.
The man in the front of the canoe is supposed to be colonial frontiersman and British soldier Robert Rogers, who wrote his “Rules of Ranging” while stationed at Fort Edward.
Stark is working with members of the French and Indian War Society, including Melodie Viele, Steven Collyer and the group’s vice president, John Strough, to ensure the accuracy of the sculpture’s details.
The work is being done off site at a piece of property owned by village resident Keith Lanfear. Blais said the village plans to use a special piece of equipment with a sling to move the sculpture from the off-site location to its home on Beach Road during the third week of August.
“What he’s doing is finishing most, if not all, of the detail up there. Because of the shavings and the kind of debris that he’s creating, we didn’t want to do it near the lake,” he said.
Blais said the project is a little short of the fund-raising goal, but he is confident it will be reached.
“I think Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius have done a great job raising the funds,” he said.
The sculpture will be housed under a shelter constructed on Beach Road, according to Blais.
Jim Connelly of Green Island was one of the passers-by that stopped to look at the sculpture on Monday.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” he said adding that he was impressed at the level of details in the heads.
Those who are looking to donate to the cost of the sculpture should contact Kim Cornelius at (954) 683-9397.
People who make pledges of at least $5,000 will be named on a bronze plaque beside the sculpture.