A large project is underway to bring pieces of Morro Rock back to their original location.
Up to 10,000 tons of rock will be transported on a barge from Port San Luis to Morro Rock in the coming months.
“It was a sacred place for the Chumash people. It’s one of our sacred sites and it’s a historical landmark,” said Violet Sage Walker, vice chairwoman for the Northern Chumash Tribal Council.
On Saturday, the first rocks were returned in a ceremony celebrating the reunification of Morro Rock.
“This was my dad’s dream and seeing over 200 people handle each rock that we got, it was powerful and moving and it was an honor to be a part of it,” said Sage Walker.
Morro Rock used to be much larger than it is today. The landmark was quarried in the late 1800s and early 1900s to build the Port San Luis breakwater and the original breakwater at Morro Bay.
“In those early years up to 1920 or 30s, a great deal of rock, maybe a million tons, were taken off of the rock face, mostly on the south and east sides,” said Glenn Silloway, president of the Historical Society of Morro Bay.
Silloway says there was no documented opposition to the move back then.
“You have to remember that in the 1800s, 1910, we’re talking about a population that was in the hundreds, maybe a thousand,” he said. “This was a very small community, and this may have been an economic engine in some ways for the town.”
“So just like they blew up the rock and scattered it into different directions, our people have been scattered,” said Mia Lopez, Chair of the Coastal Band of the Chumash Nation.
Lopez says that the project will kickstart a healing and reunification process.
“It symbolizes bringing our people together because our people have been so fractured by colonization, the mission system and so many things here in California,” she added.
The idea of reunification was originally spearheaded by Sage Walker's father. She is now leading the effort.
“My father originally told them to put it back together, literally. About seven years later, when they contacted me and asked if I was still interested in the rock, I said let’s try and bring it back together,” she told KSBY.
The project is being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funding is coming from the federal government.
It involves transporting rocks 15 miles up the coast from Port San Luis, where breakwater maintenance is currently underway, and then laying them underwater about 1,500 feet west of Morro Rock.
“They’re gonna stack them all in this modular design and it’s going to create habitat for various species, maybe a good, new fishing spot for the locals,” said Sage Walker.
The move is history in the making and something that the Morro Bay Historical Society plans to closely follow.
“I think it completes a circle and it’s a good thing for the tribes and for us to keep that memory alive that we have lived off this rock,” said Silloway.
The barge is set to take off as soon as it’s full and if all goes to plan, the project should be done in October.
The project may resume next year if bad weather conditions hamper transportation efforts.