Local artist finishes up unique bald eagle carving for Parkville park

The typical American bald eagle stands 3 feet tall, weighs about 11 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan. Parkville now has one a little bigger.

Contributed photo Local artist TJ Jenkins poses with a chainsaw carving of an American bald eagle. He recently finished the project, which transformed a dead tree into an artistic display at English Landing Park in Parkville, Mo.

Contributed photo
Local artist TJ Jenkins poses with a chainsaw carving of an American bald eagle. He recently finished the project, which transformed a dead tree into an artistic display at English Landing Park in Parkville, Mo.

A fresh type of eagle sets a new record for biggest bird in Platte County. More than 7 feet tall and weighing in at 4,000 pounds, this inanimate bird now calls southern Platte County its permanent home.

Luckily for the safety of the quaint community, Parkville’s eagle has been dead for many years.

Local artist TJ Jenkins crafted the human-sized bald eagle from a dead tree in English Landing Park near the Missouri River. With a chainsaw as his brush and the cottonwood as his canvas, Jenkins said that the process was a bit “tricky,” even for someone with so much experience in the craft.

“Up on that scaffolding, you can’t take a step back and see the entire carving,” the Parkville-area resident said. “You just have to trust your experience.”

In 2015, the City of Parkville discovered that the existing tree needed to be removed. After a recommendation from Parkville parks superintendent Tom Barnard, the city instead voted to turn a 15-foot section of the tree into a symbol that represented the park.

Barnard said that the tree, located just behind the performance stage in English Landing, was positioned to perfectly to remove.

“I just thought the way it was set just behind the stage was just too good to take it out,” Barnard said. “I had remembered TJ the chainsaw artist and some of the things he had made.

“Really, the carving is an amazing transformation.”

The parks board decided to conduct a public poll with choices of an eagle, a grizzly bear and a Lewis and Clark silhouette. The vote overwhelmingly went to the eagle, according to a city press release.

The decision came as a challenge, Jenkins said, since he had never before sculpted an eagle.

“With this kind of carving, you have a sketch of what you plan to make,” Jenkins said. “Once you’re done, you just have to step back and hope it all adds up.”

The carving itself took 8½ days to complete with the individual feathers crafted entirely by chainsaw. After using a torch to char the wood, Jenkins scrubbed the ash into the eagle to give it a “burn finish.”

Jenkins said that he put more work than required into the project because he hoped that his creation would be one of a kind.

“This is my park as well,” Jenkins said. “I wanted it to be my best eagle, and I wanted it to be the best possible eagle out there.

“It’s definitely one of the largest.”

Jenkins grew up in St. Joseph, Mo. and graduated from Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. He now calls rural Platte County his home, and he has become known in the area for his chainsaw art, despite a lack of formal training.

A series of bear heads has gained him exposure along with a recent project that produced a full-sized replica canoe, like the one Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery used paddling down the Missouri River in 1803. The bear heads are placed in various parts of rural Platte County with permission of landowners. Their locations are not publicly listed but are meant to be spread through word of mouth.

Contributed photos These images show additional detail of the American bald eagle that local artist TJ Jenkins produced out of a dead tree stump.

Contributed photos
These images show additional detail of the American bald eagle that local artist TJ Jenkins produced out of a dead tree stump.