Three Christian crosses that stood on state property next to a scenic overlook in north San Diego County for decades were removed by California Department of Transportation workers earlier this week.
Despite the efforts of dozens of local residents in the town of Julian to keep the crosses at Inspiration Point, located on state Route 79, Caltrans now has them in storage.
Hillside Community Church in downtown Julian, which is about two miles from the overlook, has agreed with officials at Caltrans to find a new site for the crosses. The church was given notice Wednesday that they have 30 days to pick up the crosses.
Caltrans says the removal was simply an issue of encroachment. But several complaints about the legality of the crosses was the reason for the initial investigation, admitted department spokesperson Cathryne Bruce-Johnson.
They were removed solely because of illegal encroachment, she told local reporters.
Earlier this month, after receiving a notice from Caltrans, Julian residents began prayer vigils and a petition to find an alternative solution to removing the crosses. However, after an intensified effort last week, the crosses were removed about 5 a.m. Tuesday and placed in storage.
"They've been here for 100 years, these crosses have or crosses like them have been here at Inspiration Point," Julian resident Dorinda Smith told a local TV news station. "It's not unsafe, it's not causing a problem; it's just some people do not like public displays of religion."
Inspiration Point has been used by churches as the location for Easter services for Julian residents and guests for many years. The site also offered panoramic views of the desert floor below.
Pastor Rick Hill of Hillside Community told The Christian Post that the church will retrieve the crosses from Caltrans and make sure they are installed again on private property.
“We weren’t involved in the debate,” Hill said. “Ours was strictly a conciliatory response, so that instead of the crosses being disposed of in some way, we could memorialize them for the people of Julian.”
Hill said he had no personal preference as to where the crosses should go.
“We will just make sure they are memorialized in the most appropriate fashion,” he added.