Community art piece at Seabright Beach destroyed by State Parks for environmental reasons
Residents of the Seabright neighborhood were dismayed last week to find that a public art piece—one many of them had helped to maintain for several years on Seabright State Beach—had been intentionally destroyed with a tractor by Santa Cruz State Parks authorities.
The art design, a peace sign with an approximate 60-foot diameter that was shaped using ice plant, was first made spontaneously in 2009 on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by local Tracey Heggum and several of her friends. The creation, located at the bottom of the Third Avenue stairs, was a way for them to show their respect for those who lost their lives that day in 2001, she says.
Bruce Walker, a resident of the neighborhood and longtime caretaker of the peace sign—he often fixed the symbol when it was changed—says that the art has become an important symbol for the community.
“It is a pleasure to be in its presence,” Walker says. “It would just remind people of peace.”
Walker says he has often seen people meditating at the peace sign’s center and countless others contributing to its maintenance.
Neighbor Diane Rejman says the peace sign was an organic and dynamic piece of art.
“It gave me a warm feeling,” says Rejman, an army veteran and now pacifist. “I figured most people who saw it would feel the same way.”
State Parks lifeguard supervisor Chip Bockman says the only reason State Parks removed the peace sign on May 15 is because it was made with ice plant, a non-native, invasive species.
“It was starting to take root and grow into the sand,” he says.
The action was part of ongoing work by State Parks to remove ice plant and restore native plants all along the local cliff edges, he says.
“We’re trying to work with [those who are upset],” Bockman says. “We want to work out a solution that doesn’t involve ice plant in the middle of the beach. That’s the big concern.”
Community members plan to meet on the beach at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25 to re-make the peace sign using yard trimmings, flowers and plant materials from the Homeless Garden Project, and ice plant from the beach’s cliff. Some neighbors have already started the repairs.
“By now, too many of us have developed a connection to it and will do what it takes to keep it there and intact,” Walker says.
Chris Spohrer, an environmental scientist for the State Parks, says using kelp, sea grass, driftwood, or something else that occurs there naturally, would not be a problem.
“It’s just their choice of material,” Spohrer says. “It out-competes all the other plants—it smothers them and we don’t want it spreading on the beach.”
“We’re not trying to keep people from expressing themselves,” he adds.
Over the years the peace sign has been altered into various forms: a smiley face, a heart, a cross, an anarchy symbol, a baseball when the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, and the digits “420” on the marijuana holiday April 20.
But it has always been changed back into the peace symbol, usually within a day, says Walker.
The peace sign Heggum and her friends made in 2009 remained for about four months before dissipating, and was absent until Sept. 11, 2011—the 10-year anniversary of the attacks—when Heggum and 10 friends made a new, even more elaborate peace sign using yard trimmings, flowers and ice plant.
“It was the most magnificent peace sign you’ve ever seen,” she says.
Photo courtesy Diane Rejman.