Monday, May 13, 2019

Bennett Rock

Jerry Bennett liked rock, but not the roll.

Along the route of the proposed CA241 transportation corridor sat a very large boulder that posed a logistics problem for Bennett.  The new toll road was destined to go right alongside the ground on which it sat, and the engineer hated to see it go in the name of progress.

The transportation corridor had been planned for decades, but actual construction of the south county short-cut to the 91 never found funding until the early 1990’s, when construction began. There were the customary environmental fights, and even a controversy involving some native American burial grounds.  Today disagreement still continues regarding the final stretch originally intended to connect the 241 to the 5 freeway by San Onofre.  It is unlikely to ever resolve. 

The road provides plenty of visual interest along the way with sweeping views toward the ocean, and layers of various red and white materials as it approaches the junction with CA91.  The toll road runs along much of the Irvine Ranch property that was donated to the state to be preserved as open space, including a stretch above Irvine called Tomato Springs, which we wrote about earlier. 

Bennett was named construction manager of the project, and when he discovered one particular boulder that was adjacent to his construction site, he was impressed.  Standing tall above the construction site just to the east, Bennett thought the monolith needed to be preserved, so as they worked around the adjacent land, he instructed workers to do all they could to ensure the ground below it was well supported.

But that year, the storms were mighty, and one day workers reported to duty only to discover that the ground below the stone washed away, and the boulder had rolled into the canyon below. Bennett’s pet project was destroyed. Sadly, he passed away before the road was completed.

Yet you will note that today it appears the stone has remained.  Appearances can be deceiving, because the original rock that fell could not be recovered.  To honor Bennett, three workers volunteered and hauled materials and tools to the top of the hill.  There they reconstructed the thing, in much the same way movie sets are produced. Made from concrete and completely hollow, they matched the new rock perfectly to its surroundings, and they dubbed it “Bennett’s Rock.”

It has been twenty-plus years since it was built, and Bennett’s rock still stands.  You can see it on the east side, south of Santiago Canyon from either direction. 

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