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Fork's tine has come

Pasadena's Fork in the Road Gang resurrects for good the giant wooden utensil that first went up in 2009.

November 12, 2011|Matt Stevens
  • An 18-foot wooden fork -- a piece of guerrilla artwork that first went up in 2009 as a birthday present for a Pasadena resident -- has been resurrected on the median at Saint John and Pasadena avenues.
An 18-foot wooden fork -- a piece of guerrilla artwork that first went up… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

After nearly two years of planning, prodding and debate, a group of Pasadena residents finally got its big wish: The city let them permanently stick their 18-foot fork in the road.

"It's not going anywhere," said a triumphant Phil Coombes, who has been part of the so-called Fork in the Road Gang since its inception.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
Caltrans: An article in the Nov. 12 LATExtra section about an 18-foot fork becoming a permanent art fixture in Pasadena incorrectly identified the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) as the California Transportation Authority.

Last month, about 10 dedicated friends resurrected the enormous wooden utensil on the median that splits Saint John and Pasadena avenues.

With a handful of enthusiastic locals cheering them on, the developers cemented the guerrilla art into "fork plaza" more than a year after the California Transportation Authority forced them to carry it away.

Now, it's here to stay.

"It's made such a wonderful impression on people," said resident Bob Stane, who received the fork as a surprise and very public birthday gift in 2009. "I think we've sort of altered the outlook on outdoor art in Pasadena."

Like many residents, Stane often drove past the dividing median, and he always joked that the fork in the road needed a fork. So for his 75th birthday, his friend and former co-worker, Ken Marshall, gave him exactly he asked for.

One night after Stane's birthday, Marshall and friends put up the giant silver utensil, wearing fake Caltrans uniforms and waving at police as they drove by.

On Halloween morning 2009, Stane encountered the belated birthday gift.

"My oldest son is a police officer and he said, 'Dad, you're going to jail for this,' " Marshall recalled. "I didn't expect it to last more than two or three days."

But the fork's popularity saved it from immediate removal. Caltrans, which owns the median, allowed the fork to remain for six months before its makers had to take it home. Eventually, however, Caltrans spokeswoman Kelly Markham said the agency and the city worked out an agreement to allow for public art in that space. The fork's creators collaborated with city engineers and received two city permits in August to reinstall it.

Now the fork is refurbished, reinforced and insured by the Fork in the Road Gang.

To celebrate its return, the gang is aiming to "Put a Fork in Hunger." In coordination with Union Station Homeless Services, Coombes said the group is hoping to collect five tons of food at fork plaza this weekend. Donations will feed people in Pasadena's Central Park on Thanksgiving Day.

The drive will run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the "fork plaza," near 200 Bellefontaine St.

Meanwhile, Marshall is proud that his creation will remain in the city for the foreseeable future. Perhaps, he says, his kids and grandkids will remember him when they drive by.

When that happens, he says, they'll call it "fork-lore."

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matt.stevens@latimes.com

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