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City working to tackle vandalism problem at Ensign Peak

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Jun 24th, 2013 @ 6:00pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — One of Salt Lake City's best known landmarks was recently defaced by vandals, and it's not the first time it's happened.

City administrators say they're working to solve the vandalism problem at Ensign Peak, but it's become a frustration for hikers.

"It's really disrespectful," said Shelley Vermason, who saw the graffiti Friday during a hike. "We've got a lot of landmarks and historical sites up here. To just have them tagged like that, it's disappointing."

Salt Lake City work crews had removed most of the graffiti from the latest vandalism spree by Monday morning. Open Space Program Manager Leslie Chan said the first complaint came in to the city on Sunday.

"I think that what we've found to be a really good way to stay on top of it is if we can respond quickly, then the people who are doing this vandalism will understand that their efforts are going to be for naught and will be covered up sooner than later," Chan said.

A unit of six workers responds on average to 17,000 of these graffiti cases a year in the city, according to Chan. Salt Lake City Mayor's Spokesman Art Raymond said the city budgets $450,000 annually to clean up after taggers.

The vandalism on Ensign Peak carries weight with locals, who can't look past the history of the trail.

Two days after Mormon pioneers settled the area in 1847, Brigham Young and other leaders hiked to the peak to survey the mountains, valley and waterways. The area has been viewed as sacred by many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because the first visit to the top was considered a fulfillment of prophecy.

Hikers of all denominations have also held the area as hallowed ground because of its natural beauty and breathtaking views.

"People spend a lot of money and time to make it beautiful, and [the vandalism] detracts from the beauty of it," said Rebecca Boren.

The area has seen its history of troubles.

In 1934, the original monument was destroyed by vandals. The historic marker disappeared for many years but was later recovered by the city.

A new marker was set in place in 1989 and was dedicated by late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, then first counselor in the church's First Presidency.

More recently, the site has been no stranger to taggers. Chan said before the latest case, the area was last hit by vandals on June 12. She said the most effective way to police the problem is to report suspicious activity.

"I think that the best thing for people to keep in mind, whether it be littering or graffiti, is that these are our spaces to care for collectively," Chan said.

Salt Lake City has had a long-standing hotline to report graffiti at 801-972-7885.


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