Officials attempt to piece together situation after Ronald Reagan statue found burnt
Friday, September 27th, 2013
Issue 39, Volume 17.
Perry Peters, the president of Friends of Ronald Reagan Sports Park, said he first became aware that the statue was burnt late Friday when he was approached by a reporter from the Press Enterprise.
Peters is now in the process of determining the cost for repairing the burnt statue as well as the implementation of security cameras to discourage further instances of arson.
"Weíre planning to include security cameras, so if it does happen again weíll know who did it," said Peters. "These are all estimates at this time but weíre thinking it will be between $8,000 and $10,000 to restore the monument and put in the security cameras."
Peters said the statue was covered from head to toe in soot and several dozen granite tiles from a surrounding backsplash were melted off the wall behind them in the heat of the blaze. He said that while the displaced tiles can be re-attached, the work necessary to restore the Reagan statue will be far more extensive because of smoke damage.
The Riverside County Fire Department is now working hand in hand with Riverside County Sheriffís Department to investigate the arson.
Mark Annas, a spokesman for Riverside County Fire Department, could not provide any details about the investigation. However, he did confirm that the investigation is still active at this time.
The statue – which features Reagan holding a shovel in one hand and cowboy hat in the other – has been at the park since Feb. 8 of last year, and is only the first phase of a planned monument that would also celebrate founding members and volunteers who helped to make the sports park a reality.
The second and final phase of the monument will feature a family of four on the other side of the granite tile backsplash from where the statue of Reagan is standing. This second phase will be constructed following the receipt of approximately $60,000 in donations The Friends of Ronald Reagan Sports Park hopes to attain, according to Peters.
The park was named after Reagan following a speech the 40th president made in 1983 before the United States Olympic Committee. Reagan praised the City of Temecula and the organizersof the park for their hard work and "traditional Americanism," because they effectively created the park through their own efforts and without the help of government funding.
Peters said the burning of the statue is not only offensive to the memory of Reagan and the park volunteers of the day, but also anyone who volunteers or puts their effort toward a particular cause in the City of Temecula.
"(Temecula) is a town thatís also known for its volunteerism," he said. "Thereís a huge number of nonprofit organizations in this town; the volunteer spirit is abundant, so in a sense this monument represented all the volunteers of the community. And thatís what the president was admiring – the fact that citizens, privately, rolled up their sleeves and took care of their local problems, including if they needed a local park."
"Itís disappointing to know that someone could be so ignorant as to want to destroy something like that," he added.
Friends of Ronald Reagan Sports Park Director Rick Reiss said that the arson is particularly impactful because in attempting to burn the statue, the perpetrator was trying to eliminate a piece of history as well as something that represented the hard work of the community.
Reiss compared the arson to examples of when Germans destroyed Jewish items during Kristallnacht in 1938 and the destruction of The Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001. He said that while the comparison is extreme, the purpose of all three incidents was the same: to eliminate evidence of another peopleís history.
"Itís the same thing; they were destroying history," he said. "And itís very unsettling, especially to see that here in America."
But Reiss said itís more than just the attempted elimination of history that bothered him. He said the arson was hurtful to the people that poured their energies into the creation of the monument.
"A lot of people did a lot of hard work to put that monument in place," he said. "And itís no skin off of anybody elseís back; if somebody in the community doesnít like Ronald Reagan, we didnít go over to them and force them to give us money or to help us. We did it all by ourselves just through a free association where people kind of came together and did this who supported it."
Riverside County Fire Spokesman Mark Annas reminded members of the public to call Riverside County Fire Departments Arson Hotline whenever they see suspicious fire-related activity at (800) 633-2836.
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