How online communities can combat graffiti vandalism of natural wonders

Facebook fans of the St. Croix River have moved quickly to undo the desecration of an important site near the river.

Last night, I posted a photo of graffiti vandalism at Fairy Falls on the St. Croix River page on Facebook, with a brief “open letter” to the vandals:

What jerks do in the woods.
"Hey, jerks - Why would you want to deface a beautiful cliff like this? What kind of way is this to act? Fairy Falls is a beautiful place, your scribblings add nothing to it."

As I expected, the reaction from many of the 13,000 fans of the river was pretty severe, with the post accumulating 60+ comments within about 12 hours:

Angela Y: If you want to do graffiti, don’t do it to deface property and other things. Do light graffiti. No damage. No problem.

Becky P: I grew up mere feet from Fairy Falls. Never had these kinds of problems back then–which wasn’t too long ago. Maybe the occasional “Bob + Jane” scratched into a rock here and there.

Kristin K: What a shame…we love to go eat our lunches there in the summers…Stupid KIDS!

“How can we help??”

Also, not surprisingly, but still very affirming as to the power of online communities, the first reaction of several individuals was to bypass outrage and start thinking about solutions. Many folks wanted to help clean it up:

Angie H: that is a terrible sight to see….How do we fix it?

Paul R: How can we help??

Bridget B: though it may very well be our own kids doing it, lets pull our kids into the effort; that’s one way to help them appreciate the beauty of pristine, natural sites such as the Falls. Pull your kids’ friends into it as well!

By this morning, action had already started to occur. A fan of the page reported he had already gone out there this morning and picked up a garbage-bag full of trash:

Brandon Z: Yeah, I picked up one load of garbage, drove home to throw it away, and now I am out of gas so there isn’t much I can do about round 2.

Other interested folks were doing the legwork to organize a more formal effort, particularly in regards to finding out how to remove the spray paint. The National Park Service, which manages Fairy Falls as part of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, ought to at least be informed of any such activities:

Solvay P: I have contacted the National Parks Service – I’m awaiting a response from them about how this clean-up effort should proceed.

Want to get involved in the effort? Visit the discussion on Facebook.

Cave drawings?

An interesting aside to the graffiti discussion was the few people who actually defended the act. One individual broke out an argument I had heard before but had generally dismissed without really thinking about:

Jeff W: how are cherished cave drawings any different?

Although I think the differences are pretty obvious, thinking about it was actually kind of fun, and I came up with the following:

…most pictographs and the such were a) painted using native materials, not synthetic spray paint, b) generally small and in earth tones so they complemented where they were painted, but did not attempt to distract from the natural beauty, and c) were usually small and in inconspicuous locations so they weren’t visible from a hundred yards away.

Another individual put eloquently what I think are perhaps the more obvious distinctions:

Becky P: I’d start with the fact that these paintings tell us nothing about pre-literate cultures (avoiding a rather cruel joke here). I’d say that prehistoric man was not concerned with suburban delinquent turf wars. I’d say that a glut of space meant that natural resources were less important 1500 years ago. I’d say that the paints prehistoric humans used weren’t comprised of polluting chemicals.

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