Auburn’s super-sized endurance tribute could tip-toe around cover-up threat

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - Auburn’s super-sized tribute to endurance is getting a touch-up while local air pollution officials work to possibly give it an exemption from the threat of a state-imposed cover-up.

The seven-year-old “Portrait of Endurance” mural by Weed artist Rip Cronk is currently being brightened in its most faded areas by Auburn artist Nancy Hakala. The city of Auburn paid Cronk $21,500 to paint the mural.

The work is on giant fuel tanks off Blocker Drive owned by Dawson Oil Company. Kasey Fray, Dawson Oil co-owner, said Friday that the touch-up paint on part of the mural follows a double-washing that helped intensify faded colors.

“We’ve just been touching the mural up over the past three weeks, weather permitting,” Fray said.

Work should be completed in about two weeks, including adding a clear coat of protectant that’s expected to further brighten the mural, Fray said. Again, that time frame is dependent on enough windows of good weather, she added.  

 Last year, Dawson Oil and the city of Auburn learned that the mural – covering five, 30-foot-high tanks at the business’ card-lock station – faced being painted over with a heat-shielding, reflective coating if the current surface couldn’t meet new state air-quality regulations.

Since then, the Placer County Air Pollution Control District has been devising a possible plan that would permit the tanks to stay decorated with a group of giant-sized endurance athletes Cronk painted in summer 2005.

Todd Nishikawa, district deputy director, said that staff is working on a proposal to exempt the tanks from the new regulations and also not require a two-day test to determine whether the current tank surface will pass muster with the California Air Resources Board.

“Testing would cost quite a bit of money,” Nishikawa said. “We’re anticipating a difference (in a more reflective surface compared with the mural) so small, that an exemption could be allowed on the basis of the public benefit the mural provides.”

Nishikawa said staff with the state Environmental Protection Agency and Air Resources Board will be provided with drafts to ensure that the county board has a viable exemption proposal when it considers the mural plan at its February meeting.

Auburn City Councilman Mike Holmes, who serves as liaison on the Auburn Arts Commission, said that he believes that the city has a good chance of keeping a mural.

“As a city, we spent a lot of money,” Holmes said.

The mural shows 15 runners from 2004’s Western states 100-mile endurance run. The work, covering 5,000 square feet and visible from Nevada Street and the Union Pacific tracks, took three months to complete.