The stunning scenery is one of the many joys of living in Aiken. From the picturesque farms, to the beautiful neighborhoods, to the clean and welcoming parks, sometimes it feels like living in a real-life postcard. What we don’t always notice, though, is the behind-the-scenes work that keeps Aiken looking its best, and for this work we have Aiken Public Services to thank. 

Each week, the crew at Aiken Public Services collects roughly 450 tons of yard waste from the curbs of city residences. These valiant workers maneuver the claws of the grappler trucks, which look a bit like a claw machine you’d see at an arcade, to collect piles of branches, trees and leaves all year round. The sheer amount of yard waste is mind boggling, and the piles have only gotten larger during the recent stay-at-home period as many residents have tackled yard projects. 

In order to collect the huge piles of debris each day, the crews are often out working past the time that the landfill closes, and when this happens, the yard waste is brought to an area known as the boneyard. In early 2019, this story begins when part of a large cedar tree found itself in the boneyard. The tree had grown on Park Avenue and had spent many happy years quietly growing old amid the day-to-day life of Aiken. But by 2019, the tree had begun to die and had to be removed by the Grounds Division of Public Services.

The Cedar Creek Woodworkers Club learned of this beautiful cedar that had come to the end of its life and knew that with time and care they could take this tree and give it a new life by transforming it into something meaningful. Members Dan Johnson and Karen Karlak collected the tree and engaged Chris, a local sawyer at Affordable Lumber, to work his magic in slicing the limbs. After waiting a year to allow the wood to dry and become ready for woodworking, Art Storer, Lorne Greenwood, Barbara Candido and Judy Nightingale handcrafted this “Stan Payne” design bench.

After crafting the bench from the cedar tree through a process that took over one year, the team proudly donated the bench to the Aiken Public Works employees on May 21 in honor of National Public Works Week and in recognition of the ongoing sacrifices these employees are making to keep Aiken beautiful during these challenging times. 

Aiken is full of historical trees that each tell a story, and the Cedar Creek Woodworkers Club hopes that the story of this cedar tree and its journey from the boneyard to a bench for workers to sit during their busy workdays will leave a lasting impression. Although National Public Works Week is over, it’s never too late to show appreciation for the people who keep our city beautiful.