Volunteers get thumbs up on spruced-up peace sign redesign

The alder trees -- and the peace sign among them -- at the end of Commercial Boulevard in Juneau are about 10 years old, pictured here on Jan. 8, 2019. The slope was cut and stabilized as part of the construction of the Home Depot.

The alder trees — and the peace sign among them — at the end of Commercial Boulevard in Juneau are about 10 years old, pictured here on Jan. 8, 2019. The Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership and local chapter of Veterans for Peace got an OK from a Juneau Assembly committee on Monday to prune the overgrowth and plant spruce seedlings in the peace sign’s footprint. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

On Monday, a Juneau Assembly committee authorized the local chapter of Veterans for Peace and the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership to do some new landscape work on the peace sign at the end of Commercial Boulevard.

In January, KTOO told you the story behind the huge peace sign carved out of the foliage on the hill. That was the story with surveyor and guerrilla artist Garrith McLean explaining how he laid out the symbol back in 2008.

“It wasn’t anything political,” McLean had said. “Art for art’s sake, you could say.”

The new work will be on the up-and-up. The groups plan to enlist volunteers to prune some of encroaching vegetation, and to plant spruce seedlings in the footprint of the peace sign. Eventually, they expect the spruce will outgrow and contrast with the existing alders on the hillside.

Gene Miller is a retired forester and member of both groups.

Gene Miller, left, and Craig Wilson pose for a photo in downtown Juneau on March 21, 2019. Miller is a retired forester and member of Juneau Veterans for Peace and Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership. Wilson is president of Juneau Veterans for Peace. The groups recently got an OK from a Juneau Assembly committee to landscape the peace sign at the end of Commercial Boulevard. Miller is holding a photo of the peace sign lit by people with headlamps and flashlights taken on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2014.

Gene Miller, left, and Craig Wilson pose for a photo in downtown Juneau on Thursday. Miller is a retired forester and member of Juneau Veterans for Peace and the Juneau Urban Forestry Partnership. Wilson is president of Juneau Veterans for Peace. Miller is holding a photo of the peace sign lit by people with headlamps and flashlights taken on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2014. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

“People will begin to notice, we think, greening up of the spruce trees in about 5 years, because spruce that are well cared for will grow about 18 inches a year,” Miller said. “Most of us won’t be around long enough to see the full outcome.”

He said spruce trees can live as long as 800 years.

The timeline for the work isn’t set, but they’re aiming for this summer.

“Our vision is that the peace sign will persist, and particularly the children in the community today that hear about it as adults maybe 50 years from now, some of them will be coming back to Juneau and say, ‘Oh, I remember when —’ that type of thing,” Miller said.

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