Troll Trek: County celebrates making art from trash

Special to The Sun
Created by artist Thomas Dambo, Big Rusty was made almost entirely from recycled materials found at the abandoned Creek Turn Ceramic factory in Hainesport.

The Burlington County Commissioners and the county parks system kicked off the Troll Trek last month, a public art initiative inspired by Hainesport’s upcycled creature Big Rusty.

“Big Rusty shows us how used materials and other items commonly thought of as trash can be repurposed and reused to create something new, much like the bottles, papers and cans we recycle every day,” said Commissioner Allison Eckel, the liaison to the County Department of Resource Conservation and Parks.

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“We hope these new trolls help amplify that message and encourage more people to think about recycling and how to reuse items before tossing them out as trash.”

Big Rusty is a massive troll who has taken up residence at the site of Hainesport’s future Creek Turn Park. A creation of artist Thomas Dambo, the large statue was made almost entirely from recycled materials found at the abandoned Creek Turn Ceramic factory off Route 38. It serves as a homage to recycling, sustainability and the power of imagination.

The commissioners and the parks system are partnering with several county municipalities and organizations to commission artists who will design and build their own trolls from natural or recycled materials for display in various county parks, downtowns and other public locations. The county is seeking artists to create at least 13 trolls; preliminary designs for trolls will be accepted through Saturday, June 1.

Submissions will be reviewed by a committee of representatives from the parks system and participating towns. Selected artists will be responsible for building and installing their trolls and a stipend of $500 will help cover materials and installation expenses. Trolls will be required to be larger than 4 feet in height and should be original designs and not copies of Thomas Dambo’s sculptures.

Complete guidelines are available on an artist prospectus posted on the county parks page at The hope is to announce winning selections in late June and unveil the finished trolls by late September.

“Hainesport’s plans to remake this 24-acre property into a beautiful, new municipal park, with Big Rusty as its centerpiece, is remarkable and we’re very proud of that initiative. I can’t wait to see what they have in store,” Eckel noted of Creek Turn Park.

“With Big Rusty as our inspiration, Burlington County is setting out to amplify Dambo’s message by creating more trolls for residents to enjoy, and hopefully become inspired by.”

The Troll Trek initiative is being funded with monies awarded to the county from the New Jersey Arts Council, with additional support from the participating municipalities and organizations. They include Lumberton Township; Mount Laurel; Mount Holly and Main Street Mount Holly; Delanco and the Delanco Environmental Advisory Board; Springfield Township; Burlington City and the Lyceum Hall Center for the Arts; Medford and Lower Forge Brewery; Shoppes at Medford Mill and the Medford Arts Center; and the Rancocas Nature Center in Westampton.

“We are grateful to all these organizations for partnering with us and supporting this exciting arts initiative,” Eckel said. “Supporting the arts not only helps artists and arts organizations, it also brings visitors to our towns, generates jobs and business activity, and helps bring our residents closer together.”

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