COLLEGEVILLE -- One of Stearns County's most unique pieces of artwork was set a blaze this (Wednesday) afternoon.

For over three years the all-natural stickwork structure known as "Lean on Me" has been capturing the eyes of travelers along County Road 159, on the Saint John's University campus says Brother David Paul Lange.

"This kind of artwork doesn't happen very often, especially in a way people respond too. Where people really love this thing and will find it hard to not have it here," says Lange.

Saint John's Fire Chief Steve Berhow says because of the material used it was starting to decay and was no longer deemed safe to have the general public view.

"It was intended to last two years according to the sculptor. We ran into a lack of snow last year or it would have been down last year," says Berhow.

The structure was built by sculptor Patrick Dougherty in 2012, who's done similar works around the world.

Dougherty predicted the structure to last only two years, but due to our cold winters it slowed the decay process.

Lange says even though the sculpture may be gone, it's memory will still live on.

"The next phase of it's life is what happens tomorrow, when people drive by and it's not here. But that's the nature of Dougherty's work, it's here one day and gone the next," says Lange.

The sculpture sat just off of I-94 on the lands of Saint John's Abbey Arboretum.

Saint John's officials estimate over 50,000 people have visited the sculptor and many more have enjoyed it from the roadside.


(Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON)