For more than a week the fate of the most famous folk art piece in the Imperial Valley was uncertain after its creator went into a full-time care facility and his caretaker and second in command died abruptly a few days later, but the situation may be improving.
Leonard Knight, 80, went into El Dorado Care facility two weeks ago and Kevin Eubanks, his caretaker, died last week, raising questions about Salvation Mountain’s upkeep.
“Right now it is chaos out there,” said Daniel Westfall during a phone interview Friday. Westfall is a San Diego resident who’s been involved in the care of the mountain for a couple of years.
Some people are claiming they are going to continue Knight’s work and watch over the mountain, Westfall said. But these people are problematic characters, he said. “We need somebody who lives there (Niland) to keep the rabbits out of the garden,” Westfall said, and “the people of Niland don’t seem to care too much.”
But if the people of Niland are not interested in the fate of the mountain, the residents of Slab City are. A meeting took place Saturday in Slab City in which talks began on how best to take care for the mountain and get issues under control.
Eubanks started organizing a board of directors during the summer, said Lynne Bright, a Slab City resident who is part of the city’s community organization that offered to look over the mountain.
This week there will be meetings to solidify the board, Bright said. Slab City residents are working to help preserve Salvation Mountain, she said. When asked about the risks of vandalism to the mountain, Bright said: “Things are fine. People are taking care of the mountain.”
In an interview Monday, Westfall agreed that the situation is calmer. Still, a board of directors “hasn’t really been set up,” he said. On Friday he will meet in Slab City with interested parties to come up with possible members for the board and establish better communication, Westfall said.
A not-for-profit legal entity is already in place, he said, but it is not functioning. “I am the president of the nonprofit corporation,” Westfall said. The board of directors will be compiled in consultation with Knight, he said. “This is still very much Leonard’s foundation,” Westfall said.
The California-based organization SPACES, an agency that specializes in preserving art installations, is interested in helping Salvation Mountain, Westfall said. This organization may also help establish the foundation, he said.
“We are trying to get as structured as soon as possible,” Westfall said, and “it’s coming together.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com