Custer has Bark Beetle BluesFirst of 4 events meant to raise awareness of pine beetles’ destruction.
By: MARY GARRIGAN, Rapid City Journal
CUSTER — If life gives you mountain pine beetles, make Bark Beetle Blues art.
That’s what the community of Custer is doing in the face of a bark beetle infestation that is turning large swaths of its surrounding forest an ugly reddish brown while loggers remove tens of thousands of trees in a bid to stop the menace.
The tree-killing scourge has drastically altered some of Custer’s scenic views and left residents wondering how to deal with their frustration, as well as the changing face of the Black Hills forest, in a positive way.
In response, the newly formed Bark Beetle Blues steering committee along with the Custer Arts Council hosted a song-filled Bug Crawl celebration from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at three venues. That event will be followed by three more community-wide events — at the spring, summer and autumn equinoxes — to mark the emergence, flight and feasts of the pine beetles’ lifespan.
The year of “mourning” concludes with a Pine Beetle Blues Wake that will — weather and fire restrictions permitting — include a festive burning of a large wooden beetle in effigy.
Custer carpenter Karl Svensson has been making the best of a bad situation, using blue wood in the post-and-beam barns and homes that he’s been building in the region for about three years now. He thinks the unique, distinctive stain is attractive and hopes the Bark Beetle Blues events will help convince others to see it that way, too.
Svensson created commemorative blue wood medallions — Bug Chips — that were given away to the first 250 people at Saturday’s Bug Crawl. He’ll do a different Bug Chip for each of the events. And he also donated hand-crafted blue wood picture frames to a silent auction fundraiser at the Bug Crawl.