Community reunites to save quake-damaged star

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Community reunites to save quake-damaged starWith aftershocks of this year’s traumatizing earthquakes knocking out the lights of the B Mountain Christmas Star, advocates are once again tapping the community for support in rehabilitating the holiday landmark.

“As many in our community have noticed, the B Mountain Star is absent from our eastern skies this December,” said Ridgecrest Exchange Club President Timothy Neipp.

“Miraculously, the star survived the 7.0 and 6.4 earthquakes in July,” he said. However, those quakes and subsequent aftershocks were a setup for disaster on Thanksgiving evening.

At approximately 4:50 p.m. on Nov. 28 — just 10 minutes before the star was scheduled to light up for the first time this season — a Magnitude 3.7 earthquake shook the region.

“This temblor shook loose a boulder larger than a pickup truck that tumbled down B Mountain, pushing a landslide through the star,” said Neipp.

For only the second time since it was installed in 1961, the light will remain dark over the season.

The Exchange Club’s involvement began last time the star was under threat of retirement. In 2013 the landlords at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake noted that the infrastructure had fallen into disrepair over the years. In the absence of any funding to maintain the star — and given the difficulty of granting access to volunteers — the dilapidated star would cease operations.

The community outpouring over the proposed action was immediate and passionate. In addition to the Exchange Club, a Boy Scout stepped up to make repairs his Eagle Scout service project.

Local contractors volunteered to make repairs. Local businesses and individuals raised tens of thousands of dollars within a few weeks.

In the end RED Electric and South Bay Electric funded the bulk of the repairs, and the remaining money was set aside in an account that would fund future maintenance needs.

“Volunteers have already performed an initial assessment of the extensive damage, and are planning to rebuild,” said Neipp.

However, since the star must be entirely reconstructed, the remaining funds are inadequate for the job.

“The main electrical panel has been crushed, and more than half of the light strands were severed when they were dragged downhill,” said Neipp.

“It is estimated that about a third of the electrical hardware can be salvaged, but it will take another $35,000 to complete the project.”

So the Exchange Club is once again reaching out to the community for donations to purchase hardware.

All labor will be provided by volunteers.

Local electricians have volunteered their time for the reconstruction and are recommending setting up the new star slightly south of the current configuration, a location experts say will reduce the likelihood of future damage from landslides.

Donations can be made in person at the following financial institutions, where special accounts have been set up: Navy Federal Credit Union, Desert Valleys Federal Credit Union, AltaOne Federal Credit Union and Mission Bank.

Contributions may also be sent to Exchange Club of Ridgecrest, P.O. Box 558, Ridgecrest CA 93556.

Anyone with questions is encouraged to call Exchange Treasurers Andy and Jean Anderson, 760-384-1551 or rcstardonations@gmail.com.

Exchange Club members are working with China Lake officials and local donors to fund repairs in hopes of restoring the fixture by next Christmas.

Pictured: Artistic rendering of the B Mountain Star after it was first rehabilitated. — Courtesy photo

Story First Published: 2019-12-20