Graffiti vandals hit historic Ensign Peak

Published: Monday, June 24 2013 6:24 p.m. MDT

Vandals have vandalized the monuments at Ensign Peak Monday, June 24, 2013.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Vandals left the monument at the top of Ensign Peak covered in paint, leaving many hikers outraged because of the historical and cultural significance of the area.

“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 after the first complaint came to the city 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,” Open space program manager Leslie Chan said.

A unit of six workers responds on average to 17,000 graffiti cases a year in the city, according to Chan.

The city budgets $450,000 annually to clean up after taggers, Art Raymond, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, said.

The attack 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 reverence for the area because of its natural beauty and breathtaking vistas.

“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 LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley, then first counselor in the First Presidency.

Chan said before the latest case, the area had been hit by vandals on June 12.

Even those who view some graffiti as an art form expressed concerns over the recent tagging.

“It is a way of expression,” Cooper Rice said. “If it’s gang-related, yeah, like that stuff’s wack.”

Chan said the most effective way to police vandalism 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 a hotline to report graffiti: 801-972-7885.

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