More than five months after bronze plaques were stolen from the National Monument to the Basque Sheepherder, officials say they are pushing ahead with plans to replace the tablets and renovate the memorial that sits atop a scrubby hill in Reno.
Organizers of the effort are considering using a different type of material for the plaques to make them less desirable to thieves. They are also accepting donations from Basques seeking to place additional names on the tablets, which listed hundreds of herders who came to the United States in search of a better life.
The theft of the five plaques, which occurred in early January, shocked members of the Basque community. Hundreds of people donated money to have the names of family members memorialized on the bronze tablets, which stood next to the towering statue called “Bakardade,” or Solitude, erected in 1989. The abstract work of art features a shepherd carrying a lamb over his shoulders under a full moon. About half of the $350,000 for the project came in checks from across the U.S. from Basque Americans who requested their fathers and grandfathers’ names be inscribed.
The cost of replacing the plaques will be covered by the insurance carrier for the Washoe County Regional Parks system, according to Andy Mink, a district manager for the agency who oversees Rancho San Rafael Park where the memorial is located. The monument is considered county property, he said, because it’s located on park grounds.
“It will be covered under the insurance, which is the good news,” Mink told Euskal Kazeta in a recent interview.
To figure out the cost of replacing the plaques, Mink said, park officials are consulting with businesses that create placards and memorials for cemeteries. “They’re the ones who would know,” he said.
Related Euskal Kazeta reports:
Vandals Steal Sheepherder Monument Plaques
Sheepherder Monument in Disrepair on 20th Anniversary
The process has been slow, Mink acknowledged, and could take months before the memorial is restored. He recently received a list of hundreds of names inscribed on the original plaques from University of Nevada Reno Professor Carmelo Urza, the author of “Solitude,” a book about the monument that contains the names.
In an interview, Urza said he recently spoke with acclaimed Basque artist Nestor Basterretxea, who designed the 22-foot bronze statue that is the monument centerpiece. Basterretxea suggested creating new plaques with a material other than bronze, which would be less valuable to vandals. Police suspect that the tablets were torn off a wall with pry bars so that they could be sold to recyclers. No arrests have been made.
“Nestor was thinking that he might be able to use a matte stainless steel that could look very modern and very interesting and not have the same material value on the wall,” said Urza, a member of the project’s original organizing committee.
In August 2009, as the monument neared its 20th anniversary, Euskal Kazeta reported that vandals had scarred the statue with graffiti and that interactive plaques designed to guide visitors had been stolen. The report noted that the monument’s isolated location made it a relatively easy target for crime and vandalism.
Urza said he has been recently contacted by Basque families who would like to have names added to the tablets when new ones go up. These supporters can now acknowledge loved ones and help the revitalization effort by making a donation, Urza said.
The money would be used to offset costs not covered by the insurance, such as replacing four interactive sign posts designed to guide visitors. It’s unclear whether those posts were damaged by weather or vandals. Designs for the posts, which feature new text and art, have already been created, according to Urza.
“We’d like to offer the opportunity for people to be able to contribute to the project and put their names on the wall,” he said, “and get funds to clean up the statue and replace the reader posts.”
Those interested in contributing can contact Urza via email at email@example.com.