Prado Dam patriotic mural near Corona loses legal protection, but could be repainted – San Bernardino Sun

A colorful, widely visible, but graffiti-marred mural on a flood-control dam near Corona that celebrated the nation’s bicentennial no longer enjoys the protection of a court order.

But officials say a plan is in the works to replace the patriotic image on Prado Dam, which was originally created with toxic lead paint.

The fate of the mural near the 91 and 71 freeways has been uncertain since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the dam, announced plans to begin removing the gigantic painting in spring 2015.

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles and Ron Kammeyer, one of about 30 former Corona High School students who painted the mural in 1976, sued in May 2015 to halt those plans. Soon after, a federal judge issued an injunction temporarily blocking the Corps from altering or destroying the mural.

On Friday, April 22,  U.S. District Judge Jesus G. Bernal in Riverside dismissed the lawsuit and lifted the injunction.

Kammeyer said Wednesday, April 27, that he was “heartbroken” by the decision.

“I feel like I let the country down,” said Kammeyer, who now lives in San Jacinto. “I didn’t win.”

Eric Bjorgum, an attorney representing the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, said he has 60 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but would prefer not to. Bjorgum believes there is hope for restoring the mural and will seek discussions with Corps officials.

After seven years, he said, “the litigation is over, essentially,” and served its purpose.

“This thing would have been taken down in 2015,” he said. “It would have been gone.”

Corps spokesperson Dena O’Dell said in an email that the ruling means the federal agency “can proceed with removing and abating the lead-based paint on the Prado Dam mural.”

“We are working with Riverside County to enter into a license agreement for the mural to be repainted,” she added.

O’Dell wrote that the Corps’ Los Angeles District would be willing to meet with mural supporters to discuss a restoration plan.

In anticipation of the litigation concluding, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, secured $2.5 million in federal dollars to remove the lead-based paint on the spillway, with the goal of clearing the way for repainting in the same dimensions as the original mural, Calvert spokesperson Jason Gagnon wrote in an email.

The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District is leading the effort to replicate the bicentennial mural, Gagnon wrote. He added that a replacement mural will require a non-federal entity to apply for a permit and pay for the repainting.

County spokesperson Brooke Federico said in an email that the flood control district is “committed to working with federal and local partners to get the mural restored.”

Before the original paint faded and was defaced by graffiti, the mural read “200 Years of Freedom: 1776-1976” and featured an image of the Liberty Bell. The mural was painted on the spillway of a dam that helps shield more than 1.3 million people living downstream from flooding, O’Dell said.

The original structure was built in 1941 by the Corps. There are plans to strengthen the dam and raise the spillway by 20 feet, she said.

Peter Usle, spokesperson for Friends of the Prado Dam Mural, which was not a party to the lawsuit, said the mural was remarkable for its size and because it wasn’t the work of professional artists.

“It was painted by 20 girls and 10 boys from Corona High School,” he said. “It was their idea.”

The mural is hard to miss driving the 91 Freeway, which carries more than 300,000 vehicles a day.

“It’s been called the gateway to the Inland Empire,” he said.

Late last decade, Usle said, his group gathered more than 25,000 comments and nearly 40,000 signatures in favor of preserving the mural.

“It just appeals to everybody,” he said.

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