CORONA, Calif. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District joined elected leaders, community members and other partners from throughout Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties June 2 to unveil the newly restored bicentennial mural on the Prado Dam spillway in Corona.
“Can you believe it? We’re here,” Jason Uhley, Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District general manager and chief engineer, said to the more than 350 people in attendance as the ceremony commenced.
“Today a renewed mural stands as a beacon, reminding us that we’re all Americans, reminding us of the sacrifices of our forefathers for our freedoms, of our hopes for the American dream and, that most importantly, we work best when we work together,” Uhley said, adding that everyone who attended the ceremony “has had some small or large part in making this happen.”
Julie Balten, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District commander, joined other key officials such as Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel, U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42), Jackie Cherrington-Pierson, treasurer of the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Conservancy, and others in speaking during the ceremony and cutting the ribbon.
“I represent an incredible team of people who believed in this and believe in a partnership we have with our communities in which we live and serve every single day,” said Balten, who called on members of the Corps’ team to stand up and be recognized for their hard work and collaboration with the partners represented at the ceremony, including Riverside County. “The team worked tirelessly to make this happen, and I’m really proud of their partnership and commitment.”
The mural unveiling comes after much anticipation from the public, as well as years of cooperation and hard work from the many people and organizations involved. The freshly painted mural itself remains faithful to the original design and vibrance — all with environmentally friendly materials.
One Way Painting, with the help of the Mural Conservatory of LA, were contracted by Riverside County to paint the mural — for which the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Conservancy and the Friends of the Prado Dam Mural teamed up to raise more than $100,000 in donations from the public.
“It’s a thrill to see and so inspirational,” said Peter Usle, a key member of the nonprofit Friends of the Prado Dam Mural. “Just like in ’76 when people came together for this, people came together for this, too, because so many people had to make this happen. If you take one person out of the mix, none of this happens. It had to be between elected officials, the public and the Corps to get this done. It’s six times bigger than Mount Rushmore.”
The original mural was first completed in 1976, after the Corps authorized a group of students from Corona High School to paint a bicentennial design on the face of the Prado Dam spillway. The mural was designed to honor the 200th anniversary of the nation — from 1776 to 1976 — and has become a source of civic pride for residents and a landmark on the 91 Freeway.
Over the years, however, the original lead-based paint began to deteriorate from weather, becoming an environmental hazard, and the artwork was marred with graffiti. But, after this restoration — including some finishing touches from volunteers, leaders and community members minutes before the June 2 ceremony — the previously faded, worn-out mural has been reborn as a fresh and bright return to the original.
“It’s stunning,” Usle said, adding that the painters used bright, eye-catching theme-park paint that makes the restored mural look identical to the original.
“We’re just happy,” Usle added. “We’re thankful for everybody. Without the public behind this, this never would have happened. We’re just so appreciative of the Corps. They were there at the town hall meetings, they were there to get the stakeholders, they looked at the history, and they listened. It was a long process, but in the end it all worked out great.”
As a flood-risk management project, Prado Dam — built in 1941 — protects the lives and property of more than 1.4 million people living upstream and downstream of the dam.