COMMUTERS AT THE LAFAYETTE BART station or traveling along Highway 24 in the Bay Area of San Francisco will see a hill across the station decorated with crosses, David stars, Buddhist wheels, and Islamic crescents. Thousands of them carpet the hillside in a sea of eerie white, each remembering an American soldier killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Local construction contractor and peace activist Jeff Heaton conceptualized this eye-catching memorial during the early days of the Iraq war begun in 2003. He planted 19 crosses on a piece of his friend’s hillside but they were soon destroyed by vandals. His second attempt came in 2006 when the war took thousands of lives, and this time he came assisted by a number of peace groups, and 300 crosses were planted on the same hillside.
This memorial has expanded to include soldiers who have fallen through current conflicts in the US, including Afghanistan. The project was met with vandalism and demonstrations by those who felt it was insensitive, but it still persists, with casualties throughout the thousands now. While the number of crosses was set at 5,000, the continuing death count shows a sign at the top of the hill, which has risen much higher. The memorial’s future is unclear but the blanketed hillside has given Lafayette the nickname of “the city with the crosses” for now.
LAFAYETTE — A alliance of neighborhood organizations and citizens has created a charity to protect the Lafayette Crosses — a hillside monument visible from Highway 24 to commemorate U.S. soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — through the property’s future remains unclear.
“Our mission is to preserve and enhance the site and significance of the Lafayette Hillside Memorial,” said Gina Dawson, one of the nonprofit’s board members, in an email. “At this time, the board wishes for the memorial crosses to remain in place, and our focus is on keeping the site well-maintained.”
The Lafayette Crosses dates back to 2006. Lafayette contractor Jeff Heaton and other activists started putting up wooden crosses in remembrance of U.S. soldiers killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on two parcels owned by Louise and Johnson Clark who have died. The property is situated on Deer Hill Road between Thompson and Oak Hill roads, across from Lafayette BART station, and occupies about five acres.
The original group of founders of Crosses, Mount Diablo Peace and Justice Center, Lamorinda Peace Community and volunteers, preserved the house, including keeping an official count of the number of deaths in the U.S. war. Dawson said several of the same members and supporters help the new organization. She said it formalizes the aims of the memorial and allows to collect funds for the preservation of the site.
The Clarks “left behind their intentions that the site should remain a peace memorial,” according to the nonprofit’s website. But last year, the Clark family had two potential buyers of the memorial site, and the Lafayette City Council granted lot line adjustments — as requested by the family — to speed up the sale.
The fate of the property remains unknown; whether the property is actually for sale it could not be proven, and what happened to the prospective buyers could not be decided. Attempts of the family attaining Charles Clark were unsuccessful.
Image courtesy of Jeffreymendel Jeffrey Nash – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50308966
This interesting site is located near the following must-see sights in Lafayette, California:
- Lafayette BART Station
- Lafayette Park Theater
- La Fiesta Shopping Center
- Lafayette Reservoir
- Grizzly Peak
- Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve
- Lafayette Community Park
- The Clocktower Lafayette
All of these landmarks are located just a short distance from our location in downtown Walnut Creek, Spaulding Concrete on Locust Street!