Bicentennial Display in Prado Dam Spillway
CORONA – (CNS) The official unveiling and dedication of a recreation of the iconic patriotic mural that stretched across the crest of Prado Dam for almost 47 years will be held today, (Friday), with numerous people slated to celebrate the occasion.
“The ribbon-cutting event will include elected officials and community members, whose vision and dedication ensured the iconic mural is present for the next generation of Inland Empire residents,” according to the Riverside County Flood Control & Water Conservation District.
The ceremony is set for 4 p.m. within the dam, off of Pomona Rincon Road.
The Prado Dam Bicentennial Mural Restoration Painting Project began in early April and concluded last week.
“The restoration project is a testament to our commitment to preserving our heritage and ensuring that future generations can appreciate the beauty and significance of this landmark,” county Supervisor Karen Spiegel said last month.
According to flood control officials, a fundraising effort by the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Conservancy and the Friends of the Prado Dam Mural generated $140,000 in donations for the project.
In March, the Board of Supervisors authorized the district to enter into a four-month compact with the conservancy, establishing that the nonprofit should have unfettered access to Prado Dam and that all rights and licenses stemming from its work on the spillway will be reserved to the district.
Prado Dam is the property of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the Flood Control & Water Conservation District operates within the space to control Santa Ana River water flows.
The original Bicentennial Mural was painted in celebration of America’s 200th birthday in 1976. The recreated mural is said to be virtually identical to the previous one.
The Corps granted the district a license to repaint the mural, which will be permitted to remain in place for at least five years, though that period could be extended.
The Corps was impervious to requests for the original mural to remain, citing lead paint hazards and related reasons. Preservation advocates sued in federal court seeking to prevent the Corps from proceeding with dismantling the display, but the litigation ended in 2021 in favor of the Corps.
Efforts to have the National Park Service declare the former spillway display a national landmark did not gain traction. Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places Joy Beasley said in 2019 that it did not qualify for special protected status because there had been “massive over-painting, loss of original paint through normal wear, and the addition of other non- historic graffiti.”
In 2017, the Corps received over 200 letters and a petition containing 30,000 signatures, urging the government to find exceptions that would permit the Bicentennial Mural to be maintained. According to the Corps, the first criterion for preservation was that the structure be at least 50 years old, and the old mural fell short of that.
Officials further stated the commemorative aspects of the original mural, which was 106 feet tall and stretched 2,280 feet across, were insufficient for federal recognition because it was created to honor one thing – – the nation’s 200th birthday — and that was done with celebratory intent, not because the people behind the artwork were endeavoring to make something permanent.
In July 2015, the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles federally sued the Corps to halt moves toward removing the mural. A U.S. District Court judge in Riverside issued an injunction barring any work at the site until all options for the mural’s future were explored. The injunction was lifted in 2021.
The original mural, which was completely removed in February, had been painted in May 1976, when more than 30 Corona High School students spent several weekends voluntarily working on the project.
Upon completion, it read “200 Years of Freedom,” with a space depicting the Liberty Bell, followed by “1776-1976” painted in red, white and blue.
The spillway is visible from portions of the Corona (71) Expressway and the Riverside (91) Freeway.
More information is available at friendsofthepradodammural.com.
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