PRADO DAM: Army Corps to
review mural’s eligibility for
A federal agency will soon begin a closer examination of the Prado Dam mural’s historic significance.
Prado Dam mural preservationists are applauding the news, although the process won’t necessarily prevent the mural’s eventual removal.
The Army Corps of Engineers is starting a review this month of the mural’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.
The review is expected to start in mid-January when letters are sent out. Army Corps archaeologists will document and gather information about the mural near Corona, said Corps archaeologist Danielle Storey.
Agency officials will hold meetings to gather information from people who have knowledge or a vested interest in the bicentennial mural painted by Corona High School students in 1976.
Members of the group Friends of the Prado Dam Mural were happy to learn the Corps is beginning the review, lead organizer Peter Usle said Monday.
“We’re all excited to hear this,” he said.
The review is bringing greater oversight to the Corps’ proposal to remove the 664-foot-wide dam spillway mural, which can be seen by commuters on the 91.
The Corps’ report will be sent to the California Office of Historic Preservation for comment, and the public will be able to weigh in as well.
However, even eligibility and inclusion on the national register does not guarantee the mural’s preservation, said Jay Correia, who manages the federal registration program for the state’s preservation office.
“No historic designation would completely protect any historic resource,” he said. “It would only, perhaps, cause more review to be done.”
San Jacinto resident and mural co-designer Ron Kammeyer, who sued the Corps to stop the removal, said being listed on the federal register is no guarantee, but it would help protect the mural.
“It’s a strong way of saying, ‘Preserve it.’ I guess you can’t get much stronger than that,” he said.
The Corps is conducting the review after a federal judge in August stopped removal of the lead-based paint mural and ordered the Corps to evaluate the image’s historic significance. The Corps and Kammeyer agreed to stop the case until the review is done, said Kammeyer’s attorney, Eric Bjorgum.
The review is also being done after Tom McCulloch, acting director of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation based in Washington, D.C., sent a letter to the Corps’ Los Angeles District on Oct. 30 urging the agency to include the state in its review of the mural’s eligibility.
A resident contacted the council when the Corps stated a National Register of Historic Places designation didn’t apply because of significant changes at the dam. The graffitied, faded mural reads “200 Years of Freedom: TOPS-1976.” The original “1776” in the mural is obscured under newer letters.
The mural’s eligibility wasn’t evaluated in the 1990s as part of the environmental impact studies done for the Santa Ana River Mainstem flood control improvement project. An evaluation would be appropriate after an outpouring of community support in a petition with more than 21,000 signatures, and new information and perceptions about the mural’s historic significance, according to the letter.
The process should take at least two or three months, Storey said.
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