Orange County painters from One Way Painting Meeting With News Station. Brothers Jeff & Jim McCabe

Behind the Scenes Look At the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Restoration

When Jeff from One Way Painting was tasked with the restoration of the iconic Prado Dam Bicentennial Freedom Mural, he knew the weight of the responsibility. We’re not just any team; we’re the best dam painters around, after all. Bringing back the glory of this historic monument was going to take some serious planning and coordination. Before our brushes could even touch the mural, there was an immense amount of prep work awaiting us. So, in this blog, we’re going to spill the beans on all the behind-the-scenes action that went into prepping for the big restoration.

Finding the Right Team

Jeff McCabe, Owner of One Way Painting, repainting the Prado Dam Mural

At One Way Painting, we know that a project is only as good as the team working on it, and this restoration was no exception. We understood that a project of this magnitude required not only skill but also teamwork. That’s why we assembled a group of skilled individuals who have years of experience working together. Leading the way is owner Jeff McCabe.

With our skilled foremen Luis Guillen and Alex Espinosa, along with talented painters Fernando Luna and Alejandro Leyva and field supervisor, Shane Clausen, we were unstoppable. Day after day, our restoration team worked tirelessly to ensure the dam’s restoration was a success.

From left to right: foreman Alex Espinosa, foreman Luis Guillen, painter Alejandro Leyva, painter Fernando Luna, and owner Jeff McCabe

Together, these individuals, with their shared skills and seamless collaboration formed a talented and cohesive team, ensuring that we were well-prepared to tackle this challenging project with the utmost professionalism and dedication. Also joining the team was Jeff’s brother, Jim McCabe. Contributing as a sub-contractor, representing his company Hi-Tech Cabling, Jim was a huge help for this entire project.

Assembling Equipment without Electricity

Painting equipment for the bicentennial mural restoration

One of the challenges we faced at Prado Dam was getting the right painting equipment. When we’re painting houses, we’ll often use electric-powered paint sprayers. But this was a problem here, as there is no electricity at the dam.

Determined to paint this mural with the utmost precision, we purchased a state-of-the-art gas-powered paint sprayer to use at the dam. This allowed us to work quickly and efficiently on the project.

Nature Calls

When it came to the practical side of working at the dam, one important consideration was the availability – or lack thereof – of restroom facilities and drinking stations. As the dam did not have accessible restrooms or water stations, we took proactive measures to ensure the well-being of our workers.

During the project timeframe, we arranged for a Porta Pottie to be delivered to the site. Additionally, we made sure our team had a large jug of water each day and individual bottles readily available.

Preparing the Paints

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the unsung hero behind the Bicentennial Freedom Mural: the paint. We know, it’s easy to overlook the little things when you’re dazzled by the design and the patriotic story behind the mural. But as professionals in the painting industry, this is serious stuff for us. For the white background, we sought a blend that wouldn’t just adhere to the spillway but would also defy time and weather, particularly given the dam’s unique environmental challenges. And when it came to sourcing the vivid red and blue paints for the Bicentennial Freedom Mural restoration, longevity and vibrancy were paramount. Enter our trusted partners at Dunn Edwards. Their enthusiasm to contribute to this restoration was palpable.

Dunn Edwards Durable Paint for Mural’s White Backdrop

Upon the removal of the original mural, the experts from Dunn Edwards set out to meticulously assess the spillway. Their evaluation culminated in invaluable paint suggestions tailored to our project’s unique needs. Their advice? An unparalleled Dunn Edwards paint for the mural’s white foundation.

Dunn Edwards Paints

But their commitment didn’t stop at mere advice. They generously donated an astounding 350 gallons of this elite paint. This outstanding donation provided everything needed for us to paint the backdrop of the mural.

Preserving Brilliance with Rust-Oleum’s Fade-Resistant Paint

For the intricate red and blue detailing, our friends at Dunn Edwards pointed us towards a premium-grade paint from Rust-Oleum’s Theme Park Paint line. Our requirements were estimated at 160 gallons in total, and Rust-Oleum graciously met this need by donating every gallon!

Both Dunn Edwards and Rust-Oleum didn’t merely offer their top-tier products; they invested into this community effort. Their monumental donations underpin their commitment to the project. These powerhouse brands have equipped us with the best, ensuring the Bicentennial Freedom Mural stands as a symbol of pride for years to come. To Dunn Edwards and Rust-Oleum: our heartfelt gratitude knows no bounds. Together, with your amazing paints and generous donations, we painted this town red, white, and blue!

Finding the Perfect Red, White, and Blue

This restoration was a journey through time, infused with reverence, responsibility, and a series of challenges. Among these, the quest to restore the iconic tricolor of red, white, and blue stood out. The Bicentennial Freedom Mural, a symbol of an era, required colors that encapsulated the spirit of 1976, mirroring the very essence of the Bicentennial celebrations.

Initially, our ambition was to replicate the hues of the vintage mural. Yet, time had faded the once-vivid colors, rendering our task of pinpointing the exact shades an impossibility.

So, we put on our thinking caps and decided to take a note from the good ol’ American Flag. We wanted this mural to shine as bright as the spirit of our nation!

Staying Safe on the Spillway’s 40-degree Slope

One of the biggest challenges we faced during the Bicentennial Freedom Mural restoration was working on the spillway’s 40-degree slope. Painting on such a slope required careful planning and precautions to ensure our team’s safety. Following all the state and federal laws, as well as the requirements set by the Riverside County Flood Control and Water District, we made sure our restoration team was well prepared. Extensive safety training was provided to every member of our team, covering important topics such as personal fall restraint systems and working in confined areas.

Each team member wore a harness connected to a secure rope anchored at the top of the spillway. This ensured that in the event of an accidental slip, they would be safely supported and prevented from falling. To further enhance safety, our workers also wore knee pads and prioritized safe shoes.

painters painting stars for the bicentennial freedom mural years

While we aimed to prevent accidents, we also prepared our team for the unexpected. They were well-informed about the necessary procedures in case of incidents, which involved reporting them to the Office of Riverside County Flood Control within four hours and also notifying Cal/OSHA.

Avoiding Rattlesnakes

While working at the dam, our team had an additional concern to contend with – the presence of rattlesnakes at the base of the structure.

snakes seen at the base of prado dam during restoration of bicentennial freedom mural

Just check out this photo we snapped at the base of the dam – a close encounter with a rattlesnake!

In case of an encounter, we ensured that our team members were aware of the proper procedures. We also emphasized the importance of staying alert and being cautious while moving around the base of the dam.

The Paperwork & Legal Intricacies

When most folks think about painting, they probably envision buckets of paint and brushes in action. But when it came to the restoration of the Bicentennial Freedom Mural, let’s just say there were a few more layers to peel back. Instead of just pondering over shades of blue or which brush to use, there was a web of legal hurdles. We—and by “we”, I mean all the players involved: the Corps, the Riverside County Water District, the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Conservancy, and us at One Way Painting—found ourselves diving deep into a bureaucratic maze peppered with roadblocks.

One significant bump? The Army Corps of Engineers, the spillway’s owners, couldn’t directly team up with the Bicentennial Freedom Mural Conservancy (Conservancy). This posed a challenge, considering the Conservancy had admirably gathered funds for the mural’s rejuvenation. But as they say, every challenge brings an opportunity.

Enter our compass through this bureaucratic maze, Riverside County Supervisor Karen Spiegel. With her dedication, the Riverside County Water Flood Control and Conservation District (the District) stepped up in a major way. Securing a special license from the Corps, the Riverside District acting as the go-between for the Corps and the Conservancy. With this in hand, the District was responsible for finding a painting company for the restoration. After a thorough vetting process, we, at One Way Painting, were humbled and honored to be chosen for the restoration of the Bicentennial Freedom Mural.

Navigating the Permit Puzzle

But, the story doesn’t end with selection. The bureaucratic fun continued with the hunt for permits. Sure, we had our credentials and insurance sorted, but to actually get to the Prado Dam and work our magic on the mural, we needed the right set of permissions.

Thanks to dedicated representatives and political allies, we clinched the essential permits, granting us 6 weeks on the dam. With every bureaucratic challenge met and matched by our collective efforts, we were free to turn our undivided attention to the historic canvas that awaited.


Reviving the iconic Prado Dam Bicentennial Freedom Mural was more than just another project for One Way Painting; it was a journey back in time, riddled with challenges yet overflowing with purpose. It was about preserving a monumental piece of our history, honoring the vibrant spirit of 1976, and showcasing the dedication of a team led by a passionate owner. As we reflect on our adventure from the slopes of the spillway to our encounters with nature, one thing is crystal clear: it takes an entire community, driven by passion and purpose, to breathe life back into such an iconic mural. We’re honored to have been part of this historical restoration, and we hope our work continues to inspire for generations to come.

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