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Auburn’s fuel-tank endurance art may not endure air quality regulations

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn’s giant fuel-tank tribute to endurance athletes is threatened with a cover-up. State air quality rules dictate a lighter color on the 30-foot-high tanks than the ones Weed artist Rip Cronk used in 2005 to create “Portraits of Endurance.” An evaporation test on the tanks – located at the Dawson Oil card-lock station on Blocker Drive – will determine if the endurance artwork can remain or whether it will be replaced with a more reflective paint coating meeting new state regulations. Tom Christofk, Placer County Air Pollution Control District officer, said Wednesday that the city of Auburn, Dawson Oil and the district all would like to retain the mural. Rocklin-based Dawson Oil will have to apply for an exemption on the mural to allow tests to take place over two days while the card lock is closed during the heat of the summer, Christofk said. But if the tanks don’t pass California Air Resources Board tests – and there’s only a 50-50 chance they will – they will have to be painted over, Christofk said. The city’s Auburn Arts Commission commissioned Cronk – who is most noted for murals he has painted in Venice, Calif. – to paint “Portraits of Endurance.” Cronk was paid $21,500 by the city. The mural shows 15 runners from 2004’s Western States 100-mile run. The work, covering 5,000 square feet and visible from Nevada Street, took three months to complete. Six years later, the mural is visibly fading and City Manager Bob Richardson said efforts are being made to determine costs for a touch-up to restore the work if the tanks can get an exemption and pass the summer 2012 testing. To move forward, Dawson Oil is asking that the tanks be touched up. Richardson said the city is looking at fundraising to help pay for the work. “From what I’ve heard all parties are interested in keeping the mural,” Richardson said. “Now it’s a question of how to make it a reality.”