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A splash of color for White Pines

One-time resident returns to White Pines Park to volunteer time, talents to paint mural

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hite Pines Park near Arnold wouldn’t exist without the work of numerous volunteers who dedicate their time to create a nice place for the community to gather.

Marina Vallejo, 17, of Reno, recently volunteered four days of her summer vacation to paint a colorful new mural on an outer wall of the park’s restroom.

“I am really grateful to have the opportunity to do something like this, because painting is something that I really do enjoy,” Vallejo said. “I’m grateful to the White Pines Park Committee and Ginny Kafka, because they really did help me out putting this all together.”

While Vallejo grew up in Arnold and attended Hazel Fischer Elementary School, Avery Middle School and Bret Harte High School, her family relocated to Reno after her freshman year of high school.

“I offered my time to paint a mural because I really do just enjoy the area,” Vallejo said. “I did move away, but I really do consider the White Pines Lake area and Arnold to be my home, so I wanted to do something to give back to that area.”

Vallejo said that she and her family spent many summer days at the park when she was growing up.

“Every time it would get even remotely warm, my family and I would just go over to the lake and have a good time,” she said.

Vallejo began painting at 4 years old with art supplies provided by her mother.

“I just started out with finger paints,” she said. “From that it just kind of grew into something bigger.”

When Vallejo attended Avery Middle School, she had the opportunity to paint her first mural there. She said that she especially enjoys public art.

“I think that it’s really important that a lot of art is accessible to everyone to see, because sometimes in galleries, it’s not necessarily open for everyone to enjoy,” she said. “You can go up close to it, you can touch the wall, you can feel the wall. Sometimes with galleries it’s not so up close and personal.”

When Vallejo switched to distance learning last year, she found that she had more time to paint. Most of her paintings are acrylic on canvas, with many depicting the Ebbetts Pass area.

“I had more time to paint each day and I ended up donating a painting to the Veterans Affairs Hospital in downtown Reno,” she said. “The painting was dedicated to medical staff and I thought the painting would end up in a break room or lunch room, but it ended up in a main hallway in the hospital. From there I started to donate more of my paintings and also enter more paintings into galleries.”

Vallejo now has multiple works displayed in galleries around Reno, with several more displayed in her home state as well.

The new mural is the largest that Vallejo has painted so far. She began on July 21 and finished on July 24. The White Pines Park Committee provided paint and supplies.

“I got there really early in the morning, probably around 7 a.m., took a few breaks throughout the day, and I would end up leaving around 8 p.m. at night,” she said. “My mom came down with me and she was there the whole time. She was kind of supervising and helping me out if I needed snacks, and things like that.”

While Vallejo is going to be a senior this coming school year, she is already taking college-level courses and plans on completing an associate’s degree in biology by the time she graduates from high school. 

Afterwards, she would like to study science education at the University of Reno, Nevada, and go on to teach science in middle school or high school.

Vallejo said that returning to Calaveras County to teach is always a possibility.

“I do enjoy those school systems up there,” she said. “I’ll see where life takes me, but that would be very fun if I could circle back around.”



Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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