Repairs for Ogle County's best-loved statue can't begin soon enough.
Frank Rausa, Sterling, who is heading up the effort to repair the 103-year-old world renowned icon, said Tuesday that testing last fall and this spring shows that the Black Hawk statue is in worse shape than was originally feared.
"With all the testing that we did we found the damage is a lot worse than we thought," he said. "We are hopeful that we will get started [with repair work] this summer."
Orange fence went up early this week around the base of the concrete statue that overlooks the Rock River at Lowden State Park.
The fence, Rausa said, is there partly to protect visitors in case pieces of the statue fall off.
He said he is in the process of scheduling a press conference soon to outline the extent of the damage and the plan for repairing and restoring the statue.
Over the years due to time and weather conditions, the statue has developed cracks, and large pieces of its concrete surface have dislodged.
The folded arms of the 50-foot monolith have been especially affected. Large chunks have fallen out of the elbow of the right arm and from underneath the left arm.
A team of experts spent nearly a week in October examining the damage to the statue and performing tests.
Engineers used high-tech scanners which allowed them to see inside the concrete to assess its condition and to determine the amount and location of steel reinforcing.
The locations of the steel were then marked on tape placed on the statue's hollow interior.
Another crew scanned the statue with rotating lasers to create an exact 3-D model of the statue.
The testing, which also included ground-penetrating radar work and ultrasonic tomography, was finished Oct. 11.
The experts returned in April to take more samples.
What they discovered was not good, Rausa said.
Directly below the folded arms of the statue, the external finishing coat of concrete — its outer surface — has separated two inches from the inner surface.
In fact, it was too fragile to do some of the planned tests, Rausa said.
"The damage that has taken place in the past year is extensive," he said.
The cold and snow last winter took an additional toll.
The experts saw significant changes in the statue's condition just from October until April, he said.
Created by sculptor Lorado Taft in 1911 as a tribute to all Native Americans and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the statue is situated on a 125-foot bluff. It draws thousands of visitors each year.
The statue is under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
Rausa is a member of the Friends of the Black Hawk Statue, an organization that has been working to secure funding for the repairs.
He said that, ironically, federal grants for restoration projects dried up about the time the statue was approved for the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
Rausa said earlier this year that the price tag for the study and repairs had risen to $700,000 and could go even higher.
More than half the money already raised for the project came from a $350,000 grant the IDNR received from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The rest came from donations, as well as funds raised during the annual Oregon Trail Days festival held at Lowden Park since 2010.
A large contributor was the Jeffris Family Foundation, Janesville, Wis., which gave a $150,000 matching grant.
Recently the Chicago Black Hawks hockey team got on board with what Rausa said is a sizable donation, although he declined to specify how much.