Eco-Sculptures in Winter: Attractive Art in a Linear Park

A pair of angels in Willingdon Linear Park

I live in a city where the appearance of eco-sculptures representing local wildlife is a summer tradition. The sculptures normally disappear in October. On New Year’s Eve (which at the time of writing this post was yesterday) during an unusual snowy and cold period, I was surprised to see some lovely winter versions of the sculptures during a walk. This is the first time that I’ve seen eco-sculptures in December. Fortunately, I always have my phone and its camera with me when I leave my home, so I was able to photograph the art.

The sculptures consisted of angels especially designed for the display, horses with a winter coat instead of a summer one, and other items. The “other items” hadn’t withstood the recent extreme environmental conditions in the area very well when I saw them, but the angels and one of the horses looked good. Snow that stays for days and temperatures that stay well below zero for days are unusual events here.

The art was placed beside Willingdon Linear Park in Burnaby, a city in southwestern British Columbia. The park consists of a walking trail bordered by plants and other artistic constructions that separate it from the busy Willingdon Avenue beside it. Whenever I’m walking along the avenue, I make sure that I travel along the trail instead of along the sidewalk on the other side of the road. When I first heard about the park’s creation, I thought that calling it a “park” was a bit of a stretch. In summer when the leaves of the deciduous trees are present, some sections of the trail really do feel like a park, however.

Sage normally represents a carousel horse but has been turned into a unicorn for winter.

The summer eco-sculptures created by the City of Burnaby contain a wire mesh frame. The mesh is filled with soil and covered with landscape fabric. Plant plugs containing specific species are then driven through the fabric into the soil. As they grow, the plants represent fur and feathers. Metal is used to highlight some parts of the animals, such as bird beaks. The winter sculptures appear to be created a little differently, though they are still decorated with plants. The plants are ones that we would expect to see in winter, including conifers and their cones.

Sage has been placed by the path and on the large expanse of land next to a church, which explains the cross in the background of the photo above. He’s a model of a carousel horse, which is why he’s supported by a pole. He has multiple varieties of plants on his surface. They have been arranged attractively to represent his winter coat. Sage seems to be a permanent model in Burnaby, but he looks different based on the plants and decorations on his surface.

Sage as he appeared during one summer

The carousel is a popular ride at the Burnaby Village Museum, and Sage and another carousel horse eco-sculpture are also popular. The museum is located in ten acres of Deer Lake Park. It depicts a street, buildings, and other features found in Burnaby around the 1920s, though some of the buildings that existed or were moved to the museum grounds were created earlier in time.

The museum is an interesting and enjoyable place to explore. Staff play the role of people of the past, and buildings such as the print shop and the schoolhouse are often open and in operation. Entertainers are sometimes present, and food is available for purchase. Eco-sculptures are present every time I visit in summer and are also present in the nearby park area. The museum isn’t open during the entire year, and the COVID-19 situation means that special rules are in effect, so the facility’s website should be checked before a planned visit.

The carousel is a renovated version of a C.W. Parker one, which was created in 1912. It was dilapidated and in danger of being destroyed when a group of concerned citizens rescued it from a nearby amusement park and then repaired and revitalized it. It’s now kept indoors in a special building created for it by the museum, which should protect it from the elements.

My favourite horse on the carousel at the Burnaby Village Museum

Unlike Sage, the angels in the linear park seem to be brand new creations. I’ve never seen them before. They are stylistic models made from a white and presumably weatherproof material on a wire frame. They are adorned with greenery, red Christmas baubles, and other decorations. They were a cheerful sight against the white snow and blue sky on New Year’s Eve. The vibrant colours of the angel on the left in the first photo above was attractive, but I preferred the winged angel on the right.

The wire mesh under the angels could be seen at close range. Unlike the case in the traditional eco-sculptures in my city, the angels didn’t contain soil. This would have been unnecessary, since angels aren’t furred or feathered and don’t need a plant cover to create this impression. In addition, a cover would have spoiled the artistic effect of brightly-lit angels. I think the designers did a good job in their creation.

A closer view of my favourite angel and her wings

The two sandhill cranes below show what a traditional summer eco-sculpture looks like in Burnaby. I took the photo at the top of Burnaby Mountain in a park aptly named Burnaby Mountain Park. This is another interesting place to visit in the city. The views of Burrard Inlet from the park are wonderful, and the park contains a permanent, multi-figure sculpture called Playground of the Gods. The baby crane shows the wire mesh model that’s filled with soil in the traditional animal sculptures.

Though I’m looking forward to seeing the wildlife sculptures again in summer and discovering ones that I’ve never seen before, I was very pleased to see the winter eco-sculptures. I don’t know when they will be removed, but I plan to visit them again in the near future. Hopefully, they will still be present. Art and nature are an interesting combination to explore.

Sandhill crane eco-sculptures in Burnaby Mountain Park