TRUCKEE, Calif. - A nearly 85-year-old monument honoring America's World War I veterans could soon be restored for public viewing.The temporary placement of the Victory Highway Eagle Monument in the Truckee Town Hall lobby, along with eventual permanent placement on the northwest corner of Donner Pass Road and Spring Street, was approved Tuesday evening by Truckee Town Council.Back when they were first conceptualized in the 1920s, the monuments, featuring a bronze eagle protecting her two nestlings on her aerie, were intended to be placed at every United States county line along the transcontinental Victory Highway, but when the Great Depression hit, the project fell by the wayside with only six monuments known to have been made, said Jaime LaChance, senior planner for the town."We have one of six, and they commend the veterans and the highway," said Truckee Mayor Joan deRyk Jones. "I think both in its historic nature and its rarity, it's important to our community."Over the years, Truckee's monument, which is owned by Caltrans, has rested in two locations: near the California/Nevada border from 1928 to the 1970s, before it was removed and put into storage due to vandalism; and the Truckee Train Depot from 1998 to summer 2011. Since, the monument has been in storage due to a streetscape project at the depot."... It was decided at that time ... that we didn't want to rush into a process to decide where to relocate the eagle or to place it back in its then current location," LaChance said. "We really wanted to reach out to the people who had specific interest in the eagle, and the timeline we were working under to get to construction last season did not allow for that."The monument is symbolic, said Helen Davis, a Truckee resident, because it represents a shared gratitude toward veterans for protecting Americans' liberty and freedom."I was very upset when the monument was gone," she said. "It is a very emotional monument. It's beautiful."
At the July 24 town council meeting, council members voted to form a stakeholder group to gather recommendations regarding the monument's location, design and funding opportunities. Sixteen stakeholders and two members of the public were present at the first meeting on Aug. 22, with the group agreeing the monument and dedication plaque should be placed in the downtown core for maximum viewing, according to the town.Town staff then studied the downtown core for placement options and came up with five sites: The Truckee Depot center island, eastern lot and western lot, a sidewalk bulbout in front of Cabona's on the other side of Donner Pass Road, and the northwest corner of Donner Pass Road and Spring Street.Upon a staff-guided tour of the five sites on Sept. 26, a majority of 12 stakeholders and two members of the public decided on the Donner Pass Road/Spring Street location, in front of the AT&T building, with the center island bulbout at the train depot being the second-best option, according to the town.The estimated cost to install the monument at the train depot is approximately $15,000, with the Donner Pass Road/Spring Street location being more - by how much is uncertain, LaChance said.Chaun Mortier, president of the Truckee Donner Historical Society, who took part in the first stakeholder meeting, but not the second, said she would prefer the eagle to be returned to the train depot."When you have something that significant with a specific spot chosen for it (before), it becomes a visual mainstay," she said, adding that the depot made the monument highly visible, since it was in the center of town."It's an emotional issue," added Mortier, although she said she's "OK" with the Donner Pass Road/Spring Street location since it is still in the downtown core.Some of the pros identified by stakeholders for that site are: The monument could be integrated into a "Victory Plaza" as part of the Brickelltown Streetscape project, acting as a centerpiece while also providing opportunities for other monuments; it wouldn't compete with historic buildings; and it could be funded by the Brickelltown Streetscape."I hadn't thought of the AT&T location, (and) as I think about it, I find it intriguing because for no other reason, it will bring people to the western side of Spring Street and hopefully that will encourage them to engage Brickelltown," said council member Carolyn Wallace Dee. "... If there's a reason to get them there or even get them started there, I think that is a real positive for placing that statue across that intersection."Davis, who attended both stakeholder meetings as a member of the public, said the stakeholders "loved" the idea of a Victory Plaza."We thought it was nice for the eagle to have a dedicated monument area," she said.Yet the site does have some drawbacks, LaChance said, considering funding uncertainty for Brickelltown in wake of the decision to abolish California's redevelopment agencies early this year, the property not being town-owned, possible utility and grading issues and a delayed installation.According to the town, the Donner Pass Road/Spring Street site should be revisited in the next six to 12 months when funding for the Brickelltown project is more certain.
Meanwhile, with installation of the monument at the preferred site being at least two years away, stakeholders have recommended a temporary display be in established.Due to the eagle's 6-foot, 8-inch wingspan, the high cost for a temporary outdoor installation and the risk of vandalism, the preferred temporary location is the Truckee Town Hall Lobby.The estimated cost to place the eagle there is approximately between $400 and $800, to be used on building materials for a monument pedestal, proposed to be built by town staff. The monument could be installed at town hall within the next few months, LaChance said, as long as the town obtains agreement from Caltrans.Mortier said she is in favor of the eagle having a temporary location."I'd rather see it on display rather than sitting in a garage somewhere," she said.