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Zoomars Dinosaur

By Brian Park

The installation of a dinosaur replica at Zoomars Petting Zoo in the Los Riots Historic District has stirred up the ire of local residents who say it is an unbefitting addition to the area.

Zoomars owner Carolyn Franks purchased the 40-foot-long, 13-foot-tall Apatosaurus, made of fiberglass and steel, at an auction in Anaheim. She had the dinosaur moved to the zoo on Wednesday, June 13, but less than 24 hours later, Franks received a stop-work order from the city, after a group of longtime residents with ties to San Juan’s historical families complained that the dinosaur interrupted the area’s historical character.

“I find it offensive on some of the most sacred and cherished land in San Juan,” said Capistrano Historical Alliance President Jerry Nieblas, whose family predates the Mission.

On Tuesday, June 19, Franks told the City Council that the dinosaur would serve an educational purpose.

“I think it’s important to talk about not just what happened 200 years ago but 200 million years ago.”

Franks, who is set to become the president of the San Juan Chamber of Commerce in July 2013, also told the council that the dinosaur is a necessary step in evolving her business.

She met with city staff on Friday, June 15, who directed her to put together a plan for how she intends to use the dinosaur. She has since enlisted the help of a paleontologist and an archaeologist to help her prepare for a meeting this week.

Nieblas said his committee is prepared to organize a protest of the dinosaur.

“We stand for preserving historical integrity,” said Nieblas. “[Franks] needs to focus on the current history and building on that—not chiseling it away.”

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