Each year, park visitors hike up the steep, deceivingly difficult trail to Delicate Arch. Along the way, hikers encounter another natural wonder, Frame Arch. Also known as Twisted Donut Arch, Frame Arch truly does “frame” Delicate Arch when viewed from just the right angle. Unfortunately, in April 2016 Frame Arch was tragically damaged.
“ANDERSEN,” deeply chiseled and nearly six feet (1.8 m) in length along the base of Frame Arch was an act of vandalism park staff discovered that spring morning.
Vandalism: action involving deliberate destruction of, or damage to, public or private property.
Some American Indians believe, as their ancestors did, that Arches National Park is a sacred place. Some recognize arches as portals in space and time, allowing access to perspectives from the past, present, and future. Today’s technology allows visitors from around the world the opportunity to share moving experiences inspired by visiting Arches National Park. Over time, cross-cultural reflection has shown that arches are widely treasured.
So, for countless park visitors, graffiti applied anywhere in the park is a senseless and selfish act that alters a hallowed place. Graffiti upsets park visitors—and staff too.
Deeply incised graffiti often requires the use of power grinding and a skilled operator to rectify damage. But the harm to Frame Arch was too severe to grind away a six-foot-long, ¾-inch-deep (2 cm) area. Grinding would have drastically changed Frame Arch, destroying a large portion of what nature took so long to create.
Fortunately, treatments to reclaim deep graffiti continue to be developed. Two methods include infilling with a mixture of ground sandstone and an acrylic bonding agent and in-painting with organic pigments.
In October 2017, after studying the damage and carefully matching colors, we began partial infilling and in-painting on Frame Arch. We completed repairs in 2018. We will continue to monitor the infilling and may use this same technique in other areas of the park.
Before and After
National parks are places where shared experiences bring people from around the world together. Why do a few people choose vandalism as a park experience? How can the act of defacing geological masterpieces be justified in the mind of one who vandalizes?
Regardless of the answer, we require vigilance to mitigate graffiti at Arches. We must act quickly to discourage additional harm by copycat offenders. Vandalism hurts.
Your involvement is crucial. Choose to leave no trace by not marking on rocks. Talk to friends and family about why graffiti is not OK, and promptly report any violations you witness. Moving forward together, our partnership of shared care and concern can help preserve our national parks and monuments.
In October 2017, park staff began repairing deeply carved graffiti in the wall of Frame Arch. Rather than grinding the graffiti away, they used a new technique to fill it in.
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Last updated: December 3, 2018