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Contact: Linda Slater, 760 252-6122
BARSTOW, CALIF. - On Friday, November 2, the National Park Service conveyed a small piece of park land to the California Veterans of Foreign Wars, resolving a longstanding issue over a white cross erected to memorialize American soldiers who died in World War I.
The Mojave Cross at Sunrise Rock was raised in the 1930s, long before the area became part of Mojave National Preserve in 1994. The cross became a controversy when the National Park Service was sued for display of a religious symbol on federal property in 2001.
"We have a solution that honors those who died for their country and honors national parks," said Stephanie R. Dubois, superintendent of Mojave National Preserve.
After lawsuits, amended lawsuits, court rulings and appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately decided the issue in 2010. A lower court concluded the case with a settlement last spring: one acre of land at Sunrise Rock conveys to the California VFW while the park receives a donation of five acres of privately held land inside the park boundary.
Dubois said the park has built a fence - with two entrances - around the Sunrise Rock area. Signs indicate it is private property and a plaque describing the memorial as commemorating all American war veterans will be mounted this week. The area is alongside Cima Road about 12 miles south of Interstate 15.
The Mojave Cross at Sunrise Rock received Congressional recognition in 2002 and is officially known as the White Cross World War I Memorial. Road signs in the area will reflect this designation. Park maps will be updated as they are reprinted.