You can be part of the solution in the battle against graffiti in national parks on National Public Lands Day, September 28, by helping to erase graffiti at Arches National Park.
National Public Lands Day is an annual event intended to improve the health of public lands and encourage shared stewardship through volunteer service. This year marks the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day and volunteer opportunities are available across the country.
With an increase in graffiti in the parks, at places such as Joshua Tree and Saguaro national parks, as well as Arches, the National Parks and Conservation Association is calling for volunteers to help wipe out graffit at Arches.
The NPCA and Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks are working with the National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management to sponsor the first Graffiti Awareness Day, to be held September 28. There will be several designated clean-up sites within Arches National Park and on nearby public lands managed by BLM, where teams of volunteers – equipped with cleaning tools - will erase the landscape of the names and symbols that are deeply etched in the rocks along the trails.
“When you come and visit Arches or any trails in the Moab area, you want to know it is still wilderness and pristine,” said Britte Kirsch, Southwest regional coordinator for NPCA. “Having tagging or graffiti and scratched out initials in rocks just doesn’t make sense. It makes you mad. National Public Lands Day is a perfect opportunity to shed light on the issue and do something constructive to restore our iconic landscapes.”
This problem is not new. In 1956 the then-Arches National Monument Superintendent Bates Wilson commented that, “The increasing desire of fools to carve their names in public places has reached the highest level possible in Arches.”
With attendance at Arches now topping 1 million annually, these instances of vandalism have only increased, according to the NPCA. Corresponding with the fact that attendance at the park today is more than 40 times what it was in Superintendent Wilson’s day, you are more likely to see freshly carved initials and symbols along your favorite trails in Arches and other public lands.
“Graffiti has become pervasive in heavily used areas of the park. It is increasingly common in remote areas, and even can be found on iconic features such as Delicate Arch,” said Mark Miller, Arches' chief of resource stewardship and science. “Park staff spends a lot of time removing graffiti, and despite our efforts we can’t keep up with it.”
“We are trying to establish a presence here in Moab where visitors and locals alike share the common goal of protecting our parks and making sure they can be enjoyed by future generations,” said Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks Executive Director Joette Langianese, whose organization is launching a stewardship program to support the parks and raise awareness about this and other issues. “We will engage more than 30 volunteers to take part in this exciting full day event and create some synergy about the work we do.”
But Arches isn't unique. Earlier this year graffiti vandals left their marks in Joshua Tree and Saguaro national parks.
At Joshua Tree in California, since January individuals have defaced the day use and canyon area of Rattlesnake Canyon with graffiti. While this started as a few markings, the use of social media has appeared to spark numerous individuals’ interest in adding to the vandalism of this scenic canyon.
At Saguaro in Arizona, at least eight saguaros and some boulders along the Douglas Springs Trail in the park's Rincon District were tagged by the spray-paint-wielding vandals back in May.
Those who care about the national parks and other public lands are invited to take part in the September 28 clean up at Arches National Park. Clean-up supplies, a light breakfast, snacks and water will be provided. Volunteers are asked to bring a lunch, two water bottles, gloves, hat and sunscreen. Please contact Britte Kirsch at 801-521-0785 or [email protected] to learn more about the event and sign up to volunteer. More information is also available at www.publiclandsday.org.