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For a place known as Old Orcutt, there are a whole lot of new attractions in the North County town – and one of the groups championing the rejuvenation has big plans for a memorial to honor Veterans.

The Old Town Orcutt Revitalization Association (OTORA) latest project is a flag pole centered on a 30-foot concrete star surrounded by five granite columns, each bearing the insignia of one branch of the United States Armed Forces. The memorial will rest near the Highway 135 overpass on Clark Ave and – the group hopes – will bring recognition to Veterans in the community. A decade ago, the “old town” feeling in Orcutt was authentic, perhaps too authentic for some. Buildings were showing signs of age and business wasn’t exactly booming. The area didn’t attract the visitors like other “old towns” on the Central Coast and was largely comprised of family eateries, a market and a bar. But work to change the downtown section began around the same time. Sidewalks were improved, parking was put at a slant and the zoning was changed to allow for Western-themed storefronts to provide a cohesive look to the area. In the past two years, while the rest of the county was suffering from the consequences of the economic recession, one of the keystone developments in the town went into place. The Orcutt Union Plaza houses local business and offered up two more restaurants, with more planned.

Past projects by the association included the town clock, mural, entrance signs, benches, sidewalk trees – and they put their support behind a project to revamp the intersection of Clark and Gray streets; projects that have been a part of the ever-growing and evolving downtown area in Orcutt. According to OTORA president Steve LeBard, the memorial has garnered the most community support out of any of the association’s projects.

In a letter written to Caltrans supporting the project, Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray said, “I feel this is a fitting tribute to the Veterans of Orcutt and it is my strong desire to see it constructed in the very near future. The County of Santa Barbara and more specifically my staff are ready to lend any assistance required in order to see this project come to fruition.”

LeBard is hoping to capitalize on that support and get the community involved in the completion of the memorial. He estimates that the project is 90 percent funded, with less than $10,000 still needed. LeBard hopes that money can be made up by small donations from the community; donations that can make a larger chunk of Orcutt’s population a part of the construction.

LeBard said he already has volunteers donating the electric work, concrete work, engineering and architecture. Four of the five insignias have been donated by local residents. OTORA is holding the fifth, Air Force insignia in order to see if the Vandenberg community would be interested in donating toward it. Over the Veteran’s Day weekend, OTORA raised more than $500 dollars in small donations by showing off a model of the memorial outside Costco in Santa Maria. Now, LeBard plans to set up shop outside of Albertsons in Orcutt, “I want the local community to give a couple bucks and feel like a part of it,” he said.

The plans for the memorial place it on the North side of Clark Avenue, in between the Highway 135 off ramp and Foxenwood Lane. “It’s an ideal location, near two schools; kids will drive by there everyday and it’s also at the turn to Vandenberg,” said LeBard.

The next step in the completion of the memorial is to go through the Caltrans’ permitting process. A roadside memorial must be authorized by the state legislator and OTORA has been lobbying Sen. Tony Strickland as well as Lt. Gov. Able Maldonado, asking for their support on the project. Once Caltrans gives the project the go-ahead, OTORA will start ordering the supplies and construction can begin. The schedule for completion will largely depend on how quickly approval moves through the legislator. “If Orcutt were a city, it would be one of the largest in the county but we don’t have a Veterans Memorial. We have 43,000 people, cities with five to 10,000 people have a Veterans memorial, we’re long overdue,” said LeBard.

For more information on the project and donating, visit orcuttflagproject.blogspot.com.

brookshire@syvjournal.com