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Tree Troll takes root in the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - People visiting the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden in Mission Canyon will likely come face to face with a giant troll in The Backcountry, a new immersive play area opening next month.

(Courtesy: Natalie Leyva and Parker Cahill)

The rock and wood sculpture is made of natural materials found within The Backcountry's four acre site. It is one of five winning design images submitted as part of a national competition.

"The biggest challenge is collecting them, pulling these native stones off the hillside, as well as the sticks, and there's an abundance of this stuff but you gotta dodge the poison oak and that kind of thing," said Joe McGrane, with a smile. "Dodge the needs of the garden, you can't be stealing from people's landscapes to build this thing."

McGrane, a retired landscape architectural professor at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, is one of two CSU instructors helping oversee the project. A group of CSU students came up with the idea.

"It all started during finals last semester and we had like two days to do the original sketches," said Parker Cahill. "I found out it was in Santa Barbara and then I was like, 'I have to get my hands on this project.' And then, here we are today."

The winning team wanted something kids could climb and explore.

"When we were talking about the troll we wanted it to be crazy and wild and have a funny face," said Natalie Leyva, who came up with the design concept. "Something just crazy to look at."

"For me, the best part is probably the face of the troll," said Megan McGregor. "It's going to be really rustic looking and really interesting to look at." 

(Left to right: Parker Cahill, Megan McGregor, Natalie Leyva)

The group of juniors spent less than one week in Santa Barbara, building the sculpture.

"We spent the last few months really in conversation to get materials and really get through the schematic design," said Kelly Curl, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at CSU. "It's just really exciting to now be on-site and using the natural materials here to sculpture, live. So, it's been really fun."


Hawk's Nest by Cody Westheimer is another winning design concept (Courtesy: The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden)

The five winning Garden Casitas, as they're called, will be unveiled on June 6 during the opening of The Backcountry.

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Beth Farnsworth

Beth Farnsworth is the evening anchor for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about Beth, click here

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