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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

In Other Words: The Trail Shark’s Fin is Sinking Low

By Chuck Keller 

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The short story is this - the Tower Park Trail Shark is sick. He has dropped his head but he’s not completely down. Time, weather, and vandalism have finally dealt the icon a serious blow. 

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The Trail Shark is a magical piece. Really. Everyone who sees it smiles. They run their hands over it. You feel compelled to touch it.  Photograph it. Sit on it. And then revisit it. Show it off to friends. It’s one of the places I recommend to first time visitors to Tower Park. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece of forest magic.

When I first wrote about the Trail Shark some years ago I said it had “a toothy metal grin, an impressive steel dorsal fin, requisite scars, golf ball eyes, and steel  suspender straps. Impressive. Artsy. Cool. Fun. Attitude. And a wonderful surprise. “ It’s all still there. Jut a bit lower. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffett, his fin is sinking low. He’s not finished. Just showing his age. 

The shark’s mystic runes add an air of mystery and intrigue. The long metal straps give it a steampunk look as well as serving a practical function. A vandal once cut off its head and rolled it into the nearby creek. Mike Lehrter, the creator of the Trail Shark, eventually reattached the head with the straps. An interior bolt was added for extra support. That bought some time.


When I asked Mike Lehrter, the creator of the shark, how he feels about the decline of the Trail Shark, he says he feels “Probably a little like Yoko Ono with her famous piece ‘Apple'. As time went by the apple on the glass stand would decompose and the decision had to be made to replace it or not…. But this may be more like a sand painting which will not be replaced. I feel that it is as it should be...all things must pass.” That’s a Zen approach and it makes sense. The demise of the Trail Shark should not be a surprise. Wood rots and returns to the earth with hopes of giving birth to something new and beautiful. That’s the cycle in the forest. 

But don’t despair. You don’t know what you will find around the bend but that is what propels us forward. In the woods amongst the trees, there is magic.

Mike left me with this thought. “Today I made another batch of silver waves to be installed this weekend on a secret project in Tower Park. As the shark decomposes further, I may repurpose some of the pieces…. I may even make a new shark if the opportunity presents.” 

Let the hunt begin. 

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