Breckenridge takes down trail troll

A Breckenridge crew took down the town’s trailside troll Thursday morning, much to the dismay of those who loved the sculpture.

Town staff blocked off the Wellington Trail as workers cut up and dismantled the roughly 15-foot sculpture made of reclaimed wood. The town’s troll sculpture was built on-site in August for a summer arts festival, put on by Breckenridge Creative Arts, which paid Danish artist Thomas Dambo $40,000 for his work. The festival ended Aug. 19, but the troll was supposed to remain in place as long as it could withstand the elements and wasn’t vandalized.

“Generally, I just thought it was fantastic that we had the troll in our neighborhood’s backyard,” said Merrily Talbott, a resident of Wellington neighborhood who enjoyed the troll. “I felt a sense of pride in it. We had friends visit from out of town, and I just delighted in the ability to go on a short hike in the woods and show them this incredible piece of public art.”

But citing public safety concerns, Breckenridge Town Council decided 5-2 on Tuesday to take the popular piece of artwork down early. Town staff wouldn’t say when the troll was coming down, only that it would be as soon as possible.

On Thursday, about a half dozen to a dozen workers used a chainsaw and small Bobcat backhoe to do the work.

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Much of the sculpture was discarded or recycled, but some pieces were saved, hauled off under a tarp on a flatbed truck and put into storage in hopes the troll named “Isak Heartstone” might return someday.

It’s too early to say exactly how that might happen, but it wasn’t lost on town manager Rick Holman that, after all the comments he’s read on social media, so many people have expressed optimism the troll won’t spend the rest of its days forever locked up in storage.

“We are talking to the artist and looking at possibilities,” Holman said Wednesday. “We’re not going to have anything for a while, but there are some things that will be discussed.”

Seeing photos of his sculpture coming down, the artist issued a statement Thursday, saying he too would like to see the troll reborn. It came one day after the artist took to social media asking people to help him save the sculpture.

“They are breaking Isak Heartstone apart as I’m writing this,” Dambo posted on Facebook. “It breaks my heart to see… But hope they will salvage the Heartstone so his soul can live on if we find a new home for him.”

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The heart-shaped stone helped give the troll its name, when a handful of neighborhood children gifted the stone to the artist, and together they incorporated it into the sculpture. The Summit Daily News was not able to determine if the heart-shaped stone was part of the town’s salvage effort.

Tipped off that the troll would come down Thursday morning, the newspaper tried to make arrangements with town officials to cover the de-installation process. The town said no, citing safety concerns.

By closing the trial for the troll’s removal, the town essentially set up a buffer with a radius just under a mile, effectively preventing the public and members of the media from witnessing the dismantling too closely. The town also didn’t release any information about the date or timing of Thursday’s de-installation.

Seeing Isak as more than wood, many people have questioned the town’s motives for taking down the troll. But all of those comments — thousands across multiple media outlets — demonstrated one of the biggest problems the town had with the troll: He was a popular fellow.

Showing just how magnetic the troll was, the town’s free Purple Route, dubbed the “Troll Trolley” as the town tried to mitigate the large crowds by driving people to use Breckenridge’s free transit service, exploded from just over 7,000 riders in October 2017 to 16,492 this October. And that’s just the bus.

Many more people came by cars, trucks and SUVs, and the heavy foot and vehicle traffic led a handful of homeowners who were feeling the greatest effects of all the troll attention to complain to town council.

In response, the town spent an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 on recent mitigation efforts, from new buck-and-rail fencing and signage to extra trashcans, more town staffing and even having volunteers and police officers on-site, sometimes working overtime.

In deciding 5-2 to remove the troll, Breckenridge Town Council reversed its decision from the Oct. 23 council meeting, when the elected officials went 5-2 on keeping the troll through the winter and re-evaluating the situation again this spring. The decision went against the wishes of those nearby homeowners who had complained in the weeks leading up to the vote.

Detailing the votes, Councilwomen Wendy Wolfe and Elisabeth Lawrence have consistently sided with keeping the troll, while Mayor Eric Mamula and Councilwoman Erin Gigliello have been solid in their desire to have it removed.

With those four votes constant, Councilmen Dick Carleton, Gary Gallagher and Jeffrey Bergeron were the deciding factors in the town’s decision to change course from October to November.

Detailing his reasons, Bergeron said Tuesday the safety hazards created by the large crowds, combined with Breckenridge’s winter conditions, became too much to bear.

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