Temecula presses ahead with second Veterans Memorial at Duck Pond Park

Temecula plans to soon add another pearl to its necklace of sculptures and memorials at the popular Duck Pond Park.

The recently approved memorial, dubbed “Fallen Heroes,” would be the second piece at the park with a military theme. The proposed memorial, which will cost about $184,000 to create and install, is intended to honor Temecula residents who have been killed in action during their military service.

A nationally recognized De Luz sculptor has designed the bronze and steel piece and a Fallbrook foundry will produce the casting. A veterans group, affiliated with the foundry, will play a key role in the work, which the city hopes to have in place in about a year.

The Temecula City Council took a key step forward in April approving the project, yet much preparation work must be done and a large share of the funding must still be allocated.

“I’m very excited to see this project come to fruition,” Mayor Maryann Edwards said as the council discussed the funds raised so far that gave the memorial the green light to proceed.

Fred Cardin, the father of one of the veterans who inspired the monument, attended the April 25 council meeting. His son, Marine Sgt. Louis Cardin, 27, was killed in Iraq in March 2016 during action against ISIS.

Focus was also placed on Marine Cpl. Christopher Singer, a 23-year-old Chaparral High School graduate, who was killed in action in 2012 in Afghanistan.

Gains landmark status

When it is installed, the memorial will become the fifth piece of public art at the park that has gained landmark status at the city. Three of those pieces are linked to Temecula’s relationships with its sister cities in Japan and Holland.

The park at the southeast corner of Ynez and Rancho California roads has its own storied history.

The property initially served as the hub of Temecula’s explosive growth after the 87,500-acre Vail Ranch, which blanketed a vast area that stretched from Vail Lake to the Santa Rosa Plateau, was sold for development in the 1960s.

The building that adjoins the 7.5-acre park was constructed as the sales office and corporate center of the original developer. It was later used as a Riverside County courthouse and assessor’s office. The park site passed into the city’s hands after Temecula incorporated in December 1989.

The park is a popular place for families to stroll and relax. The city discourages visitors from feeding the ducks living there. A restaurant now owns the building that once housed the development sales office and county operations.

City officials have used the park for holiday gatherings. Its prominent location has attracted political candidates waving hand-held signs and has been the site of numerous political and public issue rallies.

“It’s very popular,” Erica Russo, a city senior management analyst, said in a recent telephone interview. “It is one of our most popular sites.”

Over the years, the park has become a magnet for donated and city-funded public artworks. The existing pieces, as well as the new one being planned, ring the two-acre pond.

The first piece was donated to Temecula in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that occurred in New York City and Washington, D.C. That piece, “Singing in the Rain,”was designed by Dutch artist Franz Kokshoorn and was donated to Temecula by a sister city, Leidschendam-Voorburg.

That sculpture, a duplicate of a piece in the Dutch city, shows a rain-soaked umbrella collapsing on a bedraggled bicycle rider and her child.

The city commissioned its own piece in April 2004, a veteran-themed memorial that was designed by Fallbrook-based artist Christopher Pardell. That memorial, “Letters Home,” cost the city nearly $289,000 and was dedicated on Veterans’ Day 2004.

Pardell was also hired by the city to design a massive fountain in a Luiseno Indian basket pattern that is part of a public square at Temecula’s Civic Center complex in Old Town. He also designed a privately-funded statue in the 128-acre Ronald Reagan Sports Park along Rancho Vista Road.

In 2004, the city continued to burnish Duck Pond Park by adding a Japanese garden. That addition, which was designed by Kevin Harrington, a longtime city recreation supervisor, now retired, cost $133,000, and honors Temecula’s relationship with its Japanese sister city, Daisen-Nakayama.

Leidschendam-Voorburg provided a second sculpture in 2013. That piece, designed by Dutch artist Jeroen Stok, is comprised of blue Delft tile and a pair of 4-foot tall stainless-steel tulips.

The Japanese garden was embellished by the city in 2014 with a Torii gate, lanterns, chain bollards and a fox statue at a cost of approximately $80,000.

DeLuz artist-designer

The recently-approved piece was designed by De Luz artist Austin Casson, who was recommended by a city parks commissioner. Casson is widely known as a wildlife, animal and golf sculptor who has works placed in the World Golf and Thoroughbred halls of fame.

One of Casson’s bronze eagles was presented to the Texas library of former President George H. W. Bush, and the artist recently installed two life-size horse sculptures in La Cresta.

Casson has not avoided controversial subjects. His piece titled “The Healing” focused on the Pechanga tribe’s ejection of many of its members from 2004-06.

The future bronze and steel city sculpture will cost $34,000, stand more than 7 feet tall and include a battlefield cross, a life-size bald eagle and a steel tower.

The California Sculpture Academy, a Fallbrook foundry, is involved in the “Fallen Heroes” project. Its Veterans art project will cast bronze seals of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

The city will pay nearly $17,320 of the sculpture’s cost. Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4089 will contribute $10,000. A GoFundMe account raised $5,166 and an unspecified nonprofit group contributed $1,500, according to a city staff report.

Another $150,000 is expected to be formally allocated by the city in the upcoming fiscal year budget July 1. Those funds would be used to create a base for the new sculpture, install the piece and cover any cost overruns.

Russo said the city hopes to have the new piece in place by the spring of 2018.

Mayor Edwards said she is looking forward to the new piece taking its place amid the other monuments that adorn the park. “It’s going to look awesome,” she said in a telephone interview.

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