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Black Hawk statue test results coming soon

Results might arrive next week; restoration to begin when weather warms

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 8:34 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 8:56 a.m. CDT

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OREGON – Findings from tests done this fall on the Black Hawk statue might be available next week.

Frank Rausa, of Sterling, who is spearheading an effort to repair the 102-year-old statue at Lowden State Park, said reports are expected the first week of December.

Structural engineer Aldo De La Haza said last week that the analysis was almost complete. He and other experts examined the damage to the concrete statue in October. Testing included high-tech scanners, rotating lasers that created a 3-D model of the statue, ground-penetrating radar work, and ultrasonic tomography.

De La Haza said other engineers will further study the repairs needed to reverse the effects of time and weather and to protect the statue from further damage.

Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 as a tribute to all Native Americans and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue stands atop a 125-foot bluff overlooking the Rock River. It draws thousands of visitors each year.

The statue has developed cracks, and large pieces of its concrete surface have dislodged. The folded arms of the 50-foot monolith have been especially affected.

The cost for the assessment and repairs was estimated at $625,000. Much of that money has been raised.

Rausa, a member of The Friends of the Black Hawk Statue Committee, said the price tag for the study and repairs is up to $700,00 and could go higher.

More than half the money raised for the project came from a $350,000 grant that the Illinois Department of Natural Resources received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The rest came from donations, as well as funds raised during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival held at Lowden Park since 2010.

A large contributor was the Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, Wis., which gave a $150,000 matching grant.

Rausa and his wife, Charron, have been the force behind the fundraising.

“It’s the most rewarding thing we’ve ever done,” Charron said.

The couple, in their 70s, addressed everyone from school children to civic organizations to businesses about the importance of saving the statue.

Recently, the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League got on board with what Frank said was a sizable donation, but he declined to specify how much.

“It was a good amount,” Charron said. “And they gave us the amount when we really needed it. They put us over the top. The state wouldn’t let it get started until we got a certain amount.

“The Blackhawks also told us they will help us again with the next phase, too, in the spring.”

Repair work is expected to begin as soon as the weather is warm enough next year.

The sooner, the better, Frank said, because Black Hawk’s condition is steadily deteriorating.

“Somebody is going to have to build him an arm,” he said.

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