County recognizes Slab City artist, Salvation Mountain | News

Arturo Bojórquez Adelante Valle Editor


EL CENTRO — The Imperial County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday a resolution that recognizing artist Leonard Clarke Knight and the Salvation Mountain. The resolution has declared the site a historically significant property and historical resource for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.

Knight started the Salvation Mountain religious art installation in 1986 and worked directly on the project until he was forced to stop due to health reasons in 2011.

The artist died on Feb. 10, 2014.

Since his death, a group of volunteers have worked to preserve the installation.

The site is known by visitors from around the world and has been a subject in articles, books, videos, and other forms of media.

In 2000, the Folk Society of America deemed Salvation Mountain as a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

According to Salvation Mountain, Inc., federal and state level precedent exists to protect and preserve exceptionally significant properties less than 50 years of age, including religious properties of artistic or architectural significance, and accurately executed reconstructed properties retaining historic integrity — considerations that the Salvation Mountain fulfills.

The art installation is commonly referred to as a polychrome creation.

Knight took a hillside and with clay, wood, and other materials formed shapes, words, stairs, and other features, the petition reads. The sculpture was finally painted in vibrant colors.

The close to 40-acre Salvation Mountain is located east of Niland along Beal Road.

Petitioners said Goal 3 of the Imperial County General Plan’s Conservation and Open Space Element reads that the county seeks to preserve, “important prehistoric and historic sites (…) to advance scientific knowledge and maintain the traditional historic element of the Imperial Valley landscape.”

Goal 3.1 adds protection of “sites of archeological, ecological, historical and scientific value, and/or cultural significance.”

Petitioners said the preservation and restoration of the Salvation Mountain religious art installation is consistent with the County’s General Plan adopted in March 2016.

Salvation Mountain Inc. plans to acquire the property for the California State Lands Commission for continued preservation and restoration of Knight’s art.

Imperial County Planning and Development Services Director Jim Minnick said the project does not represent a fiscal impact on the county’s General Fund.

The county’s resolution reads Knight was born in 1931 in Burlington, Vt., and rose to the rank of Corporal in the Korean War. He was discharged with honor in 1967 and relocated to Imperial County in 1986 to stay only one week. However, Knight stayed in Slab City for a quarter century.

Thousands of gallons of donated paint were used for the Salvation Mountain. However, the initial construction crumbled and was regenerated beginning in April 1990.

During Tuesday’s meeting, no member of the public made comments about the project.

District 4 Supervisor Ryan Kelley said the proposal — which he fully supports — was brought to the board earlier.

According to the resolution, tens of thousands of people from around the world have visited Salvation Mountain, and is present in numerous scholastic publications across the US and Europe verifying the property as a historically significant art environment, is the subject of thesis projects, documentaries, and press across the US and the world, is featured in film and is known in American popular culture.

In 2002, the 107th US Congress called Salvation Mountain “a stunning work in progress (…) a national treasure, a singular sculpture wrought from the desert by a modest, single-minded man (…) a sculpture of ages — profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of international acclaim it receives.

Besides producing the Slab City iconic site, Knight painted vehicles, Camp Dunlap sentry booth, peripheral land sculptures, two adobe buildings, making use of an onsite mud quarry, all these elements are in-situ features of Salvation Mountain as an important multi-resource historic district, the resolution reads.

“Without proper preservation protection protocols or oversight, art environments like Salvation Mountain are demonstrably fragile, short-lived, and rare properties that vanish shortly after their makers, and the preservation of historically significant properties for generations is a fair and proper bulwark against changes the future might otherwise subject upon Salvation Mountain”, the resolution continues.


Also on Tuesday, the board voted 5-0 to approve a $160,093.55 contract with Mariposa Landscape Inc. to build Phase 1 of the Imperial County Desert Shores Soccer Park.

In December 2021, the board, sitting as the Air Pollution Control District Board of Directors, approved a $295,235 agreement amendment with the Salton Community Services District for the Desert Shores Community Park Urban Greening Project funded by the Clean Air Fund.

The project is located in an open dirt lot that lacks a proper playing surface for children.

“Due to the costs and lack of availability of water, oftentimes the dirt on the playing field becomes emissive which leads to poor visibility and playing conditions, while also negatively affecting the health of children and spectators,” a county report dated back in 2021 says. “The requested funds would go toward the costs of the proposed project, which involves the site preparation: prepare area by leveling dirt, check the slope and compaction, layout of real grass and the material and labor to perform the job at a 33,600 sf. area.”

Arturo Bojórquez Adelante Valle Editor

2024-01-10 08:00:00 , – RSS Results in news of type article

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