Sarpy County Local News

Bellevue pays unique tribute to first responders with tree carvings

Bellevue, Nebraska – Bellevue, a bustling city known for its rich heritage and commitment to conservation, has discovered an innovative way to blend the preservation of nature with a heartfelt tribute to its heroes. In the vicinity of the Washington Park playground, there emerges an artistic endeavor, striking in its appearance and deep in its message.

When you approach Washington Park, your eyes might be drawn to what seems like a sculptural display. But, on a closer inspection, you’d recognize it to be a detailed tree carving. These aren’t just any ordinary tree carvings. These trees, once mighty ash trees, had succumbed to natural ailments. Whether they fell victim to drought or to the notorious Emerald Ash Borer, a tree-eating bug, remains uncertain.

Councilman Don Preister from Bellevue remarked, “These were old, they were hollowed out and what caused them to be hollow I couldn’t tell you.” But the critical concern was safety, as he added, “Once they were dead and falling on people, it wasn’t a matter of what caused it, but we got to make it safe for people.”

One such carving, particularly notable, showcases a firefighter and a policewoman with a young girl. Scott Pries, the mastermind behind these intricate carvings, invested two painstaking years to bring this vision to life.

“I was hoping for something easy, but it didn’t end up with that, but it turned good,” he shared. His intention was more than just creating art. By carving first responders, Pries intended to highlight the pivotal role they play in Bellevue’s community. This art serves as a nod to their inclusivity, especially since the local departments are keen on recruiting more female first responders.

“To get young women to look up at the policewomen and maybe follow in their footsteps,” said Pries, illustrating the underlying message of his work.

One cannot overlook the positioning of the carved figures either. The police officer and the first responder stand back to back, a testament to their mutual support and unwavering dedication.

“In Bellevue, the first responders have the people’s backs and each other’s back,” Pries emphasized. The community’s appreciation for such work and the messages it conveys has been overwhelming. “I’ve been thanked a thousand times by people coming through here,” Pries said. “It’s just great what people say.”

Scott Pries is already gearing up for his next venture. He envisions a carving that celebrates a medic and a military service member in unison. Though this project won’t commence until Spring 2024, it’s a promise of more to come.

Bellevue’s vision is grand; they plan to disperse similar carved trees throughout the city. Once there’s a sufficient number, a GPS system will be integrated to aid residents and visitors in locating these unique sculptures, making Bellevue a true blend of nature, art, and honor.

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