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New First Street oak to get art

A new piece of public art will soon join a young coast live oak planted in the center median of First Street in Solvang. City officials will unveil the new piece Friday.

The city of Solvang is inviting the public to the unveiling of a new piece of public art and a reception Friday.

“The Golden Stein,” an artwork on loan to the city by the Morris B. Squire Foundation, and will be placed in the center median on First Street between Oak Street and Molle Way where a giant oak tree previously stood.

City officials will unveil the piece at 4 p.m. The reception will follow just a short distance away at the Copenhagen Sausage & Beer Garden, 1660 Copenhagen Drive, which is accessible from Molle Way.

The Squire Foundation is a lending resource of contemporary art that makes works available for exhibition at locations throughout the world, said Lisa Martin, city clerk for Solvang.

For more than 100 years, two giant oak trees towered first over vacant fields, then a dirt road that wound beneath their branches and, eventually, Solvang’s First Street that was paved around their trunks.

But in August 2017, a 12-inch diameter branch broke off and fell onto the street, and a subsequent inspection by an arborist revealed the oak was diseased and dying, making it a hazard to public safety.

The following month, the tree was removed, leaving only a giant stump, although its sister tree half a block away, just south of Oak Street, was found to be sound and still stands.

City officials and residents debated what to do with the median where the tree once stood, and a number of suggestions were put forth.

Ultimately, the City Council decided to plant a new oak tree at the south end of the median and install a piece of public artwork at the north end as a focal point until the young tree can mature, which could take 15 years.

“The Golden Stein” was chosen as that artwork.

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This report was compiled by Mike Hodgson, news editor for the Santa Ynez Valley News. He can be reached at mhodgson@leecentralcoastnews.com.

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Lee Central Coast Newspapers associate editor Mike Hodgson covers Santa Barbara County government and events and issues in Santa Ynez Valley. Follow him on Twitter @MHodgsonSYVNews.