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NPS tackles graffiti

When someone places graffiti on public or private property without consent, it is vandalism.

Many people expect this type of illegal eyesore in big city vacant lots, derelict buildings, or on traffic signs. But, for those who love nature, seeing graffiti in the great outdoors is a much greater offense. Sadly, our national parks face this type of defacement regularly.

Perpetrators use spray paint or carve symbols into trees and sandstone, pile rocks, or use them to create words on the ground. Like elsewhere, these actions are illegal and disrespectful of the land within our national parks. It is also expensive for the Park Service to complete graffiti removal. At Lake Mead National Recreation Area, we dedicate many staff hours and park funds to remove the vandalism created by people either unaware of the leave-no-trace principle or purposely disregarding it for selfish reasons.

The removal process takes time because when someone identifies graffiti, park staff cannot immediately remove it. First, one of our archaeologists must verify that no culturally significant items exist in the area, like petroglyphs, because the removal process may harm them. The second step is assembling a team to put in the manual labor to remove it. If there are multiple layers of graffiti, removing it can take a full day or sometimes two.

This month, our removal team included National Park Service employees, Nevada Conservation Corps members, and Volunteers in Parks. The volunteers sprayed an environmentally friendly chemical on the rock surface and used wire brushes to scrub away the spray paint, then rinsed it with water. The removal team repeats the process until the graffiti is gone.

Carrie Norman, who coordinated the event, stated, “Graffiti has always been an issue in high-use areas, but we’re noticing a slight increase in occurrences in hard-to-reach ones.” Those who have ventured to Gold Strike Canyon, for example, may see some unsightly examples. Unfortunately, our team can only get out once per year for some out-of-the-way locations like Placer Cove, so a few days of manual labor is expected to remove all the paint.

Negative impacts of graffiti include damaging the natural environment, inviting more graffiti buildup, damaging other natural resources, and potentially harming native wildlife. Lastly, there are many culturally significant areas within the park with petroglyphs. If vandals place graffiti over these features, they are not restorable, as these are fragile and non-renewable resources. Harming these cultural resources is also disrespectful to our local tribes.

Thankfully, due to the number of volunteers who turned out for the graffiti removal, the process took half the expected time. These volunteers took time away from their regular jobs and busy lives because they care about this park and the outdoors.

More importantly, here at Lake Mead, we care about one another and understand that conservation is a community effort. We want to thank all our volunteers for all their hard work on the removal!

If you find graffiti in the park, please get in touch with our park dispatch office at 702-293-8998.

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