Desert Christ Park
On a barren hillside in the Yucca Valley, the recently restored Desert Christ Park has attracted pilgrims and kitsch hunters for over 50 years.
This Christian theme park near Joshua Tree is the brainchild of the late Reverend Eddie Garver, who envisioned the attraction as a light and symbol for world peace. In 1950, the US government helped Garver realize his dream and granted the “Desert Pastor” 5 acres on a desolate mount, overlooking the valley.
The first biblical statue appeared on the site in 1951 amid a wash of media attention. The previous year, Frank Antone Martin, a sculptor and poet from Inglewood, California, had been refused permission to erect his 10-foot, 5-ton plaster-and-steel-reinforced Christ statue on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Reverend Garver offered the “unwanted Christ” a home on his hillside, and Martin chose the Yucca Valley site despite several other offers. The giant Jesus travelled on the back of a truck from Los Angeles via the Desert Highway and was inaugurated on Easter Sunday.
Over the next 10 years before his death in 1961, Martin created more than 35 statues from plaster, steel and concrete, including a 3-story, 125-ton bas-relief of The Last Supper. A window was installed behind Christ’s head, along with a platform for visitors to stand on and pose with the savior.
Sadly, over the years the park had fallen into disrepair. The 1992 earthquake in nearby Landers knocked off hands, feet, and heads—exposing creepy, steely skeletons. Limited funding and wanton neglect also took their toll, most noticeably on the young “Blessing of the Children” figures which were missing limbs and faces.
But fans of the park weren’t merely praying for salvation. They have started the Desert Christ Foundation to restore the dusty disciples, and they have faith that their efforts will lead to the park’s redemption. As of late 2019, the park is almost fully restored and the sculptures returned to their former glory.
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