Felled palms brought back to (another) life by LGI resident

December 2, 2022
By Sheila Evans

Fallen palm trees are everywhere on Little Gasparilla Island. It seemed like such a waste to Don Schlandt, who lives on the island. Don is someone who tends to make lemonade when life gives him lemons. He saw the downed trees as a gift that could help him rebuild his own home, and maybe help in his efforts to restore other people’s homes as well.

“After the storm there were so many coconut palms and native palms on the ground, I started thinking maybe they could help me fund my own rebuild,” Don said. He had no insurance to make repairs on his island home, but he was not worried. He has gotten pretty good at making home repairs, as he has helped neighbors with their storm-damaged houses, as well as traveling out of state to help other friends with home repairs.

“All of us have worked and worked and worked to get the island livable again,” he said. Selling artwork using downed trees felt like a good idea. He had made totem poles from palm trees before, and had sold a number of them, so he posted the idea on his Facebook page … offering to create custom-designed, handmade totem poles. The response has been positive, and he now has several orders. “But I can always use more,” he noted.

The style of pole is up to the buyer, Don said. He has made some that are authentic Native American or Hawaiian designs, but he can also make them whimsical or thematic. “Pirate designs seem like a good fit, with Ian storming the island,” he said. He could easily do a pirate-themed pole.

Don is a retired designer and builder of custom pools for the rich and famous, work that has honed both his artistic bent and his ability to handle many aspects of construction work.   

He said the carving of a palm tree is relatively easy, but when the trees first fall they are extremely heavy, especially if they have been in a rainstorm. He usually waits for a while to let the tree dry out and become lighter and easier to manipulate. The trees also come in various heights, with the tallest ones being more difficult to move because of their weight. 

“I can make a totem pole out of any size, really,” he said, “but they usually are three- to six-feet tall. There are so many palm trees that need a home.”  Anyone interested in having Don create a totem pole for them can check him on Facebook or call him at (404) 372-6057.