BANGOR, Maine — A group of area residents is banding together to ensure Paul Bunyan gets a little love — the statue, that is.
Jeanne Savoy, chairman of the Paul Bunyan Restoration Group, told members of the Bangor City Council’s government operations committee recently that the statue overlooking Main Street is in need of maintenance.
In addition to a fresh coat of paint, the volunteers plan to fix the statue’s broken peavey and enlist an engineer to crawl inside the statue to ensure that it’s structurally sound.
“We’re just doing this because we love Paul Bunyan,” Savoy said, adding that 2009 is the perfect year for a face-lift because the statue turned 50 in February.
It has been more than 10 years since the 31-foot fiberglass likeness of the legendary lumberjack has seen any repairs. Back in 1998, many of the same people who make up the current restoration group embarked on a similar effort.
“We had a successful effort the last time and I think the attitude of this group ensures success this time around,” Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette said.
Savoy and Willette told councilors that the plan is to raise money for supplies and convince painters and others to donate their time. Some area artists already have signed up. The council agreed to pledge $400 to get the fundraising effort started.
“I’m tickled with the initiative of this volunteer group,” City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer said. “It’s wonderful that there is interest because [the statue] really deserves better.”
Palmer conceded that Bunyan is not fancy, by any means.
“Some would say he’s not even art,” he said. “But he’s got a great smile.”
Constructed in 1959 to coincide with Bangor’s 125th birthday, Bunyan is one of the Queen City’s most recognizable and most photographed landmarks. The model for the creation was conceived by local artist J. Normand Martin, who still lives in the area and is working with the restoration group.
Many municipalities throughout the country have statues of Paul Bunyan, but local historians insist that his only possible birthplace is Bangor, the one-time lumber capital of the world.
Asked how long the statue can survive, Savoy said optimistically, “At least another 50 years.”
The volunteer group hopes to begin restoration efforts later this month once the snow melts.