As they drive through Coarsegold, locals have grown accustomed to peering uneasily at a massive, crumbling, gray brick wall near the southern edge of town.
It has become an infamous symbol in the small, gold rush town in the foothills of Madera County.
Nicknamed "The Great Wall of Coarsegold" for its sheer size and prominence, it stands unusually close to the town's quaint historic village, where a cluster of small wooden shops with painted signs offers visitors handcrafted gifts.
Over the years, the wall has been a hot topic for angry public comments at numerous town hall meetings, especially around the rainy season.
This month, the wall's critics got the news they had longed for: The wall is finally coming down — and not by mudslide.
Construction crews will begin work on the wall's demolition starting today, Madera County Supervisor Tom Wheeler said.
A 7,000-square-foot storage unit building above it will be removed first, followed by the three-tiered wall, which will be restored as a hillside, Wheeler said. All of the work should be completed within a month.
Madera County and the out-of-town owners of 2T's Mini Storage have been embroiled in legal battles for years, with plenty of blame dished out from both sides regarding the wall's flawed construction.
After a Caltrans assessment, a 2011 court order required that protective barriers be installed around the wall to prevent bricks from tumbling onto nearby Highway 41.
Creditors for 2T's took legal possession of the property after its owners filed for bankruptcy and recently received the judicial go-ahead for demolition plans to move forward, Wheeler said.
Fixing the infamous wall has been a goal for Wheeler since he was elected in 2006.
"Hallelujah!" he said of the demolition plans. "I can't tell you how much money the county has spent on this — thousands and thousands of dollars."
Wheeler said he has a special file for people's complaints about the wall that is "so thick it's not even funny."
"It's just an eyesore," said Laura Young, a Realtor with J. Carol Realty, which sits less than 50 feet from the wall. "It's not very inviting for tourists ... They see that and go 'Ewww, I'm not stopping, this place is falling apart!' "
Across the street, David West, 78, said the problem points back to "bad planning" as he ate an ice cream with his wife outside of Robert's Frosty.
Wheeler said he feels "relieved" about the wall's imminent demise: "It will look more like our mountains — like it should be, instead of that big, ugly wall."
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