Reagan Statue at Sports Park Torched by Vandals

Monday, 23 Sep 2013 03:54 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Vandals set fire to a life-sized bronze statue of President Ronald Reagan at a namesake sports park in California, blackening its colorful paint and damaging a memorial set up around it.

"It’s an insult to the president as well as to the community," Perry Peters, founder of the nonprofit Friends of Ronald Reagan Sports Park in Temecula, Calif., told the local newspaper, The Press-Enterprise.

Peters' organization donated the statue, which was dedicated last year, and has set up a Paypal account to collect money to restore the monument, according to the park's website.

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The damage was discovered over the weekend, and a sheriff's department spokesman said the vandals had left unrecognizable burned debris near the statue's base. The fire damaged inscribed granite tiles behind the statue as well as landscaping and lighting.

The case has been turned over to arson investigators. Peters said the vandalism shows young people don't appreciate "the greats in our history."

"I hope they find who it is and get him straightened out," he added.

The statue depicts the former president and California governor, painted in a yellow work shirt and blue jeans, holding a shovel in one hand and a cowboy hat in the other. The paint is now all blackened.

The monument had been built with private donations and recognizes volunteers who built the Rancho California Sports Park in the early 1980s before Temecula became a city.

Reagan praised the volunteers' efforts in a March 1983 speech to the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the park was renamed in his honor in 2004.

This wasn't the first time a Reagan statue has been hit by vandals in California. In November 2011, someone tied a lasso or chain to a pickup truck and tried to topple a memorial statue of the president in Bonita Canyon Sports Park in Newport Beach, reported The Daily Pilot

That statue, valued at $50,000, was left leaning and was later removed, and city council members offered their own reward in hopes of catching the vandals.

And in August 2011, thieves stole bronze busts of Reagan and his secretary of state, George Shultz, from their pedestals on the Chapman University campus in Orange, Calif., reported the school's blog.

"It’s hard to figure out if these two busts were taken because someone is a Reagan and Shultz fan and wanted them for his or her personal pantheon, or whether they weren’t a fan and for some reason didn’t want them displayed on campus," said Randy Burba, chief of campus public safety.

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