Monday, March 22, 2021

The Cold War Horse of Rocky Flats



Along a road in northern Arvada, Colorado, stands a statue called the "Cold War Horse" Memorial. The horse is easy to spot, as it is clad in an electric red hazmat suit, black rubber boots, and a respirator.  The memorial was created by artist Jeff Gipe to acknowledge the history of the Rocky Flats Plant, its workers, and the surrounding community.  Gipe's father worked at the plant for over 20 years. Rocky Flats Plant was a nuclear weapons production facility that had a huge influence during the Cold War era, from 1952 ro 1992. For nearly forty years, the plant manufactured the plutonium triggers of nearly every nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal. It’s estimated that 70,000 plutonium triggers were produced at this plant. Plutonium is a highly toxic and radioactive substance, and special precautions had to be taken during production.

According to the artist's website:

"After a second major plutonium fire in 1969, the second largest plutonium fire at the facility, citizen protests gained momentum and urged Rocky Flats to cease operations. In 1989, the FBI in conjunction with the EPA raided the complex in the first ever inter-governmental raid. Many violations were discovered and production was halted. The plant’s operators later admitted and pleaded guilty to environmental crimes. Soon after the raid, the plant site was put on the EPA superfund cleanup list. In 1993, the Secretary of Energy announced the end of the Rocky Flats nuclear production mission.
The original estimate for remediation of the site was in excess of $37 billion and projected to require 70 years for completion. The Department of Energy and Kaiser Hill devised an accelerated compromise plan that cut costs to $7 billion and just one decade for completion."

You can read more about the Rocky Flats Plant on this link


Today, the Rocky Flats Plant is gone. The site of the former facility consists of two distinct areas: the "Central Operable Unit" (including the former industrial area), which remains off-limits to the public as a CERCLA "Superfund" site, owned and managed by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge, owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Next to the Cold War Horse is a plaque with the same description as that on the website and an image of the Rocky Flast Plant before it was torn down.




On the fence surrounding the horse sculpture are two dedication plaques. One is in memory of Dru Nelson, a young man who passed away in July of 2015 who was passionate about the environment and the other is in appreciation to Bruce and Janice Roberts for their assistance in getting the Cold War Horse displayed.  There is also a box attached to the fence that states "Share Your Story," and where questions, comments, concerns, and donations can be left.  

Not without controversy, the Cold War Horse Memorial, which was erected in 2015, was badly vandalized by unknown assailants just two weeks later. The artist was not deterred, however, and the Cold War Horse was repaired and now resides in the same spot, surrounded by a fence, lights, and cameras armed with motion sensors.



As you can see in the photo collage above, the city of Denver is located around 16 miles east, and many new homes are being built in areas surrounding Rocky Flats. The Cold War Horse Memorial looms over it all as a stark reminder of what was once located here and what should not be forgotten.

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39 comments:

Angie said...

Pat - very interesting. Did the artist explain why he chose a horse for this sculpture? Thanks for sharing with Mosaic Monday!

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Hi Angie

No, I did not see anything in any of my research about why the artist chose a horse for his sculpture. I'm guessing because a horse is such an iconic animal in Colorado? Many people own one and ride one in wide-open spaces like the Rocky Flats area once was. Also, the Native American Utes that once lived in the area considered their horses to be their wealth.

In any event, it is an eye-catching sculpture and took me by surprise the first time I saw it. I had to go around and stop by it to learn more about it, so it had the desired effect.

Penelope Notes said...

Perhaps the horse also symbolizes endurance. In its bright red garb, the sculpture is the perfect startling sight to draw attention to this very important issue.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat,

The Cold War Horse is an interesting sculpture. I am glad the plant is gone now, hopefully we still have a rule following EPA. I think things got a little loosy-goosy over the last 4 years with the environment. Take care, enjoy your day! Have a great new week!

Taken For Granted said...

What a terrific sculpture to a dark history preparing for nuclear war. Hope there is no need for these weapons every again.

Small City Scenes said...

Wow that is so interesting. I didn't not know about any of this.
MB

Ruth Hiebert said...

That horse would be impossible to miss.

Lydia C. Lee said...

Cutting costs on the clean up is a concern. Will be interesting to see a cancer study on the residents of the new homes...interesting story.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

I've never heard of that but it sure is interesting! I'm glad you shared the story of it! Hope you're warm and snug during this cold snap! Hugs!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

This is cool. I had never heard of the horse.

My mother worked at the Hampton works in Washington State where they concentrated and recovered plutonium. I had an uncle and cousin who worked at the National Engineering Lab in Idaho Falls dealing with nuclear weapons. They both died of Leukemia. The INEL has some severe pollution problems dating from practices from years ago.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Sounds too familiar to me. I grew up in Oak Ridge Tennessee where they made the bombs dropped on Japan to end WWII

stevebethere said...

Very interesting love the photos and the horse sculpture very clever :-)

Have a coldwarhorsetastic safe week 👍😷😷😷

The Liberty Belle said...

Very informative. I wonder just what sort of hooligan would vadalize a work of art like that.

lesh Stgermain said...

Interesting history with this statue of the horse, Pat! And hard to overlook! Many thanks for sharing it with All Seasons. You will read more of the following coming Sunday in my post, but need to change the photo link (have been working on it for 2 whole days!)to s simple permalink in the comment (because of Wordpress' change to the new block editor). have a beautiful week, Jesh

Tom said...

...it sure makes a bold statement!

MarilynsTreats said...

Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. We appreciate your shares. They have been Tweeted Pinned. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

Martha said...

Great photos. I had never heard about this before, love the horse sculpture!

Lowcarb team member said...

This was very interesting Pat.
Thank you.

Enjoy the new week ahead.

All the best Jan

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We have driven that Highway a few times, but never saw the sculpture. Knew a little about the former plutonium site and that it is off limits to the public, did not know the interesting history. The power of ordinary people standing up for what they believe ...powerful and inspiring. Also did not know any land around the site *was* accessible and hope we can visit some time. Who knows, though what with travel being like it is and the CO family move (not to mention getting older every minute) . (Btw, They are moving somewhere near Ridgeway.)

Nellie said...

Very interesting history! How sad that vandals had to make their mark!

EricaSta said...

A hard time in past. This memorial is urgent now in this days again, I believe... very sad and interesting to read about the history. Thank you for sharing.

Stay healthy.

Meditations in Motion said...

What an amazing story! We pass by Rocky Flats every time we visit Colorado. Now I think we must visit the Cold War Horse Memorial the next time we are in the vicinity.

csuhpat1 said...

That is so very cool.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

My goodness, what an interesting post, Pat. How sad that someone felt the need to vandalize this spot as if to block out history. I appreciate you sharing it!

William Kendall said...

A fascinating history.

NCSue said...

I'd never heard of that, nor of some of this interesting history. Thanks for enlightening me, and for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2021/03/duke-gardens-memories.html

Lady Fi said...

Fascinating! That red really pops, doesn't it?

Donna @ Modern on Monticello said...

Thanks for sharing this post. My husband and I just bought our plane tickets for a trip to Denver this summer for our 30th Anniversary. So I need to start planning everything we will go see and do. #HomeMattersParty

Jeanie said...

I know there are nuclear plants everywhere but I had never heard of Rocky Flats or of the Cold War Horse. It's really quite striking and you can't miss it, that's for sure. I was intrigued by the history as well as the skill of the artist.

Michelle said...

This is a very eye catching sculpture. Interesting to me that homes are being built close by. Not sure I would be confident about that! Thanks for linking up and stay well!

Lisa said...

That is really quite fascinating. Thank you for sharing it.

Spare Parts and Pics said...

An interesting and disturbing history. I've never heard of this site. 70,000 plutonium triggers... wow!

Jim said...

Interesting.

Klara said...

history repeats... now it could be renamed - corona horse. :-)

betty-NZ said...

You certainly can't miss a red horse on the side of the road! An interesting choice for the sculpture. Thanks for the history of the area.

I'm happy to see you at 'My Corner of the World' this week! Thanks for linking up.

Linda said...

I love the horse! It is incredible that people try to get away with such serious pollution.

Dawn Hart said...

I never knew about The Cold War Horse, but in my defence I'm from the UK. I found this post on a blog hop and look forward to following you as I've recently returned to blogging x

Rambling Woods said...

We have several super fund sites that have buried toxins from the nuclear bomb era that was sent from the west...

Magical Mystical Teacher said...

I went to high school in Denver when Rocky Flats was still going strong, so I very much appreciate this sculpture.