|Prado Dam Patriotic Mural near Corona Set to Start Restoration
The control of the Prado Dam located off of the 91 Freeway, (with its Bicentennial Freedom Mural on the dam’s spillway the size of six Mt. Rushmore monuments, at 120 feet tall and 664 feet long, with a 40-degree slope) is a complicated matter: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers controls the Prado Dam, a water-control spillway that has never been used since it was built in the pre-WWII 1941; the water rights are controlled by the City of Riverside; the vegetation and landscape around-along-surrounding the dam is overseen by the City of Corona. 5 communities totaling 7 million people (Orange County and Inland Empire) feel emotionally connected with it as “theirs” (and their politicians have all had something to say about this political fight to save the mural or sand blast it as the Army Corp of Engineers has wanted to do.
But, as you might guess, the government’s technical arguments for sand blasting the mural are not logical, don’t make sense. The artist’s rights legislation, V.A.R.A. has been tossed around but the prevailing weighty matter is whether it was a good political move and was the population in the area in favor of saving or sand blasting. The public opinion has been in overwhelming to save it.
Visible to almost a 1/3 of a million drivers a day traveling east on the 91 Freeway, today’s faded liberty bell and 13 stars representing the 13 colonies tagged with graffiti, still evokes a patriotic response from people. The red- white-and-blue-mural painted by Corona High School students to mark the nation’s bicentennial in 1976 has as its slogan, “200 Years of Freedom.”
Kammeyer, one of the mural’s original designers and artists, tells the story of speaking with then, US President Gerald Ford, and said that it should be preserved, according to the Friends of Prado Dam Mural’s website. “It’s the largest patriotic mural in America, and one of the most beloved,” said landscape architect
Kammeyer and the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles sued the Army Corp of Engineers in May 2015 seeking to stop their plans to sand blast off the graffiti and the mural. Soon after, as crews were ready to begin removing the faded mural, a federal judge issued an injunction temporarily blocking the Corps from altering or destroying the mural. The mural did not qualify for preservation as a national landmark, officials said in 2019. In April, U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal dismissed the lawsuit and lifted the federal injunction. Though supporters of restoring the mural were initially alarmed, the organizers have since worked with Army Corps officials and with the expertise and help of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories and Scott M. Haskins to arrange for the mural to be fully restored, with work to begin later this year. Corps spokesperson Dena O’Dell said in April that the judge’s ruling means the federal agency “can proceed with removing and abating the lead-based paint on the Prado Dam mural.” Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico said that the county’s flood control district is “committed to working with federal and local partners to get the mural restored.”Federal and county leaders met with mural advocates to sign an agreement and to discuss a plan and timeline to begin the restoration. Earlier this year, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, secured $2.5 million to be used by the Army Corps of Engineers to remove paint and graffiti and begin the restoration, with aid from the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Orange County Water District and the Friends of the Prado Dam Mural.
On a Tuesday, Aug. 30, statement, Calvert — who once called the mural “more graffiti than mural” and a “bad image” — expressed his support. He called it “as a source of pride for Corona residents and everyone in our region.” “The desire to restore the mural to its original condition is something that unites people across the political spectrum, and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to contribute along with the other stakeholders to make that restoration a reality,” Calvert saidKammeyer said he fought “tenaciously,” rounding up thousands of letters in support of keeping the mural. For me, (this) represents 20-plus years of struggle, of making that promise to our president. It reminds people of that moment in time.” Kammeyer said. The goal is to have the mural “completely restored, hopefully, by July 4 of 2023.” Peter Usle, from the Friends of the Prado Dam Mural which is leading fundraising efforts — said five city councils — Corona, Eastvale, Norco, Chino and Chino Hills — signed resolutions “in support of returning the mural to its former glory.” “Not only does it express the ideals of our nation, it’s also been accepted as public art, and unlike other monuments of its kind, no one’s face is on it. So when viewing it, it touches you directly,” Usle said. This beloved mural, like the 1976 Bicentennial itself, brings people together with the spirit of patriotism and like you can readily hear said from those who work and live in the area, I know I’m home when I see it.
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