MOAB — More than two dozen volunteers swung into action Saturday in Arches National Park. Their job was to clean up the aggravating, infuriating messages left by park visitors, right on the rocks.
More than a million visitors a year come to Arches National Park, and just a few of them ruin a little bit of the scenery with graffiti.
"National parks are a national treasure, and graffiti is just totally unacceptable," said Moab resident Frank Stewart.
Stewart was one of 30 volunteers who spent the day at the park, scrubbing, rubbing, brushing and scraping graffiti from the rocks.
Some volunteers even brought their kids, as a learning experience. Logan resident Cory MacNulty said she wanted to teach her children that "this is a national park, and these are the places that should be protected and that people should respect."
Volunteers for the graffiti rub-out were recruited by two groups: The Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks and the National Parks Conservation Association. The groups' leaders say it's frustrating and inexplicable that park visitors would deliberately mar the scenery.
"You could do it on Twitter if you want to; you can do it on Facebook. But you don't need to leave this (graffiti) on this rock," said Joette Langianese, with The Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks.
"Can you tell that I'm a little aggravated?" said Mark Miller, with the National Park Service. "It's more than annoying."
The problem appears to be getting worse on public land, nationwide. At times, boulders have been so grotesquely carved up that the Park Service had to destroy them.
"They're so far past the point of recovery or restoration that the only solution is to obliterate it, and that is frankly embarrassing for the park to have to make that kind of management decision," Miller said.
If the volunteer effort isn't impressive enough, the penalties should definitely discourage potential vandals. If you get caught doing graffiti in a national park, you can be fined and even sent to jail.
The Park Service doesn't have enough staff to keep up with the problem, which is why they welcome volunteers. For more information on how you can help, contact either The Friends of Arches and Canyonlands Parks or the National Parks Conservation Association.