City Council approves funding for Dam sculpture

September 29, 2000
Santa Paula City Council
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesSanta Paula looks to be at the top of the list to create a memorial commemorating heroes of the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster after the City Council approved a $40,000 expenditure of federal funds - and $5,000 donated by the Rotary Club - for a larger than life size statue by a local artist.A majority of the council approved the plan at the September 18 meeting; the sculpture is Eric Richards of Santa Paula.City Councilwoman Laura Flores Espinosa was the dissenting vote, noting that the issue is “now the central bicycle trail slash St. Francis Dam memorial. . .I think the monument is a wonderful idea,” and will greatly add to the city’s pull for tourists, but “it’s just a shame we missed some opportunity to get input from the community,” on the subject matter.The idea was first broached by the Santa Paula Historical Society several years ago as a way to mark the 75th anniversary of the dam collapse, only second to the San Francisco earthquake in lives lost. When the dam came crashing down near midnight on March 28, it slammed through the Santa Clara River Valley all the way from the Newhall area to the ocean, over 54 miles. Over 400 were officially declared dead, but some believe the toll could be as high as 1,000.In all, the historical society and its partners will erect five monuments tracing the path of destruction through the river valley.
The report by Public Works Director/City Engineer Norm Wilkinson noted Richard’s sculpture depicts two motorcycle officers who in “1928 risked their lives to warn the citizens to flee to higher ground,” as the floodwaters, reaching Santa Paula as a horrifying mixture of water and debris, came through the city.The Rotary Club of Santa Paula has donated $5,000 to the monument effort, which is being funded by federal grants; the Ventura County Transportation Commission has already approved the plan.The central bicycle trail project’s first phase will cost about $2 million, paid out of federal transportation funds.

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