Words and symbols spray-painted on rocks along Mill Creek Canyon have raised concerns among some local residents and officials with the Bureau of Land Management. The red, spray-painted graffiti included arrows apparently leading an individual or a group to an alcove in the north fork of Mill Creek – known locally as Left Hand Canyon – and a pair of rocks painted to ask “Will you go out with… me?”
“We’re not sure what [the writing] is, but it appears to be a scavenger hunt or directions of some kind,” said Katie Stevens of the Moab BLM office.
The BLM enlisted the help of Trail Mix, a countywide group that works to maintain and preserve trails throughout the area, to remove the graffiti as quickly as possible.
“We feel that getting rid of these things as soon as possible is one way to prevent further vandalism,” Stevens said. “We appreciate the help of Trail Mix to get this cleaned up so quickly.”
Stevens said that, although the vandalism did not affect any of the rock art in the area, spray painting on rocks on public lands is still a violation of federal law.
“If we’re able to find out who is responsible, we will prosecute,” Stevens said.
Moab resident Sara Melnicoff alerted the BLM to the graffiti after a homeowner on Powerhouse Lane told Melnicoff about it.
“We believe it was done on Wednesday [May 25]. It’s hard to tell if it was done by locals or not. It’s impossible, really, to know what the intention was.”
Melnicoff described the incident as “very upsetting” and said she and others who regularly do volunteer work in Mill Creek have worked hard to keep the area clean as a way of discouraging litter and vandalism.
“It’s an assault on nature,” Melnicoff said. “It’s just heart breaking. I think moreso because it speaks to the human disconnect to the natural world.”
Melnicoff said she also found new graffiti on the concrete wall of the nearby power dam earlier this week. That painting included initials spray-painted in blue and other images.
That graffiti was painted out on Wednesday morning, she said.
“If you get on it right away, it helps stop it,” Melnicoff said. “We used to see this kind of thing in Mill Creek all the time, but we’ve worked really hard to keep the area cleaned up. That’s helped. Until now, there hasn’t been any graffiti in [Mill Creek] for several years.”
Sandy Freethey, chairwoman of Trail Mix, said a handful of local residents spent Saturday, May 28 cleaning up much of the graffiti along the north fork of the creek. They used rags, water and sand to create a sort of “wet sandpaper,” that helps erase the paint without doing further damage to the rock, Freethey said.
“This was very fresh spray paint so it worked very well in this case,” she said. “If it had been regular paint that had been on the rock for a longer period of time, I’m not sure this method would have been successful.”
Freethey said the BLM often enlists the help of Trail Mix when trail cleanup or “emergency situations” such as quickly cleaning up the graffiti arise.
Melnicoff said a local businessman has offered a $100 reward for information leading to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the spray painting.
Anyone with information about the graffiti is asked to contact the BLM-Moab office at 259-2100 and ask to speak with the law enforcement ranger, Stevens said.
ByBy Lisa J. Church