Lake Powell gets facelift from volunteers on cleanup day
By TODD GLASENAPP
PAGE -- Before leaving your favorite cove or canyon on Lake Powell, be sure to leave your mark -- initials, dates or some other calling card carved into the Navajo sandstone.
That's a tradition that National Park Service officials and others want to see eliminated in the million-acre Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
"There is graffiti everywhere in the lake," said Glen Canyon archaeologist Chris Goetze.
A handful of heavy graffiti zones were combated during the inaugural International Coastal Cleanup and National Public Lands Day Sept. 15. At Lake Powell, about 100 people turned out in an effort sponsored by 10 local groups. Many of the participants picked up litter.
While many picked up litter, graffiti-removing groups worked in Moki, Face and West canyons and a couple of sites near Wahweap Bay.
A houseboat operated year-round by lake concessionaire ARAMARK for the sole purpose of removing trash took Goetze, Glen Canyon Superintendent Kitty Roberts, Page Mayor Dean Slavens and others to Wahweap's Windows and Sand Slide.
At Sand Slide, they used spray bottles and wire brushes to smooth out rock that had been gouged by hundreds of visitors.
"Anybody who's been out on the lake is probably aware that we have a graffiti problem. Part of today is to try to make some small dent in it," Goetze said.
There simply are too many inscriptions for park officials to remove. Visitors must come to understand that graffiti is a scar on the environment as well as an illegal act, she said.
"We'll need a long-term project, coupled with education to get our visitors to understand that it's not only illegal but not aesthetic. I don't think they want their lake to look like this," Goetze added.
Slavens, while rubbing out an inscription in Sand Slide, said: "I think if people come out, they need to remove some of the graffiti. Just bring a wire brush with them and take some of the graffiti off."
If people want to call attention to their romances with a mark, a better way would be to write it in the sand, Goetze said. "It'll be
there for a little while, and then it'll be gone. While they're on the beach, they'll enjoy it, and it won't offend other people at a later date."
Luke Stevens of St. George, Utah, doesn't have to be converted to the idea. Stevens, a frequent visitor to the lake, called the graffiti rude and "not very natural."
Markings that date to the 1800s are considered of historical value and will not be touched. Examples are inscriptions of the Cummings-Wetherill party of 1909 that "discovered" Rainbow Bridge.
Slavens brought to mind the markings left more than 100 years ago in nearby House Rock Valley. The area, south of the lake, was visited by Mormon pioneers on their way to and from weddings. Also leaving historically valuable initials was Charles Hall, for whom Halls Crossing was named.
Park Service spokesperson Eileen Martinez said she expects the popularity of the first International Coastal Cleanup and Public Lands Day to lend itself to more events like this.
After the morning cleanup, participants competed in kayak races, played an ecological version of "Jeopardy," showed off the most unusual trash picked up, and observed displays of water rescue equipment.
Sponsoring the program with Glen Canyon National Recreation Area were: GMF Antelope, LLC, the developer proposing a resort-marina at Antelope Point; Friends of Lake Powell; ARAMARK's Lake Powell Resorts & Marinas; The Ocean Conservancy; Twin Finn Drive Center; the National Environmental Education & Training Foundation; Glen Canyon NRA Employee and Alumni Association; Glen Canyon Natural History Association; and Pepsi-Cola of Page.