End of the Trail pond should be fully repaired by May

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Pond beneath iconic ‘End of the Trail’ statue at Mooney Grove still needs to be drained, sealed and refilled

By Nancy Vigran

Reporting for The Sun-Gazette

VISALIA – “Parks and Recreation Staff is working creatively to revive the working condition of the fountain around ‘The End of Trail Statue,’ at Mooney Grove Park,” was recently posted to the Tulare County Parks & Recreation Facebook page.

The fountain and pond surrounding the iconic statue have been nonfunctional for about a year now. Neil Pilegard, manager of Tulare County Parks and Recreation, noted last year that the pond was leaking. The pond was drained and the fountain has been dormant.

However, it’s now under repair work, Pilegard said. And, the pond was filled with water last week.

It will need to be drained again and dried for a sealant to be applied before it will be declared fully repaired and ready to hold water and functioning for the fountain to be turned on again.

Pilegard said he was unsure of the cost at this point. Board of Supervisor Amy Shuklian, who sits on the Parks Advisory Committee, said she wasn’t familiar with the cost either, or whether that fountain and pond were included in the $500,000 budgeted last year for Mooney Grove Park repairs and upgrades.

Additionally the Lily Pond Project, the bid for which was awarded last fall, has been held up due to the pond’s lack of structural integrity. The lily pond has been inoperable for years and was to be beautified through a local art project as it was cost-prohibitive to restore it as a functioning lily pond.

“The last thing we want to do is destroy it,” Shuklian said.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors had enlisted the local art community’s help to repurpose and redesign the pond. The Arts Consortium got involved inviting submissions from local artists. The team from Garden Street Art Studio had been awarded the project with a $15,000 budget, and were very excited to get to work.

“It is priceless,” Jessica Smith said of winning at the time. “I’m excited for the opportunity to have our artwork out there.”

But, that hasn’t happened, yet. Apparently the pond’s structure was not analyzed prior to enlisting the artists’ help.

New tables and benches are being brought in to replace the old broken concrete ones in various locations around the park, Pilegard said.

In her efforts to focus more on Mooney Grove, Shuklian said she has tried to stay on top of the park by visiting there more often and communicating more with park staff.

Being unsure if the End of the Trail fountain and pond repairs were included in the park’s budget, the expense may need to go back to the Board for approval, she said. But, according to Pilegard the unknown amount of money has already been spent.

Clearly there’s an agreement the End of the Trail pond and fountain needed repair, but just when that should have happened is not clear. Pilegard said he expects it to be functioning again by early May if not sooner.

“I think it’s a very important feature of the park,” Shuklian said.

“’The End of the Trail Statue,’ was sculpted by James Earle Fraser for display in the Court of Palms at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco,” the Facebook post went on to say. “It was one of the most photographed sites of the fair. It has since become one of the most recognizable images in the Country.

“After the fair closed, the plaster statue was claimed by residents of Tulare County, CA and relocated to Mooney Grove Park. The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, acquired the original plaster in 1968. A bronze cast of the statue now appears at Mooney Grove Park.”

A donation request to help preserve local history came at the end of the post eluding to the End of the Trail fountain repair possibly needing financial assistance.

“That was the first I heard of it,” Shuklian said, adding she was going to look into it.

As of press time, the Sun-Gazette had not heard anything further.

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