VERNAL — When Brent Taylor first heard about Moonshine Arch, the scoutmaster for Troop 544 knew it was a perfect spot for a weekend campout.
And when he found out the arch had been vandalized, Taylor knew his Scouts could clean it up.
"I thought this would be a good service project for the boys," he said.
Taylor just didn't know how to remove the names that had been scrawled in charcoal at the base of the natural arch, located north of Steinaker State Park on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.
"I thought, I'm not going to take it on my own to go clean it up," he said, "because I didn't know if it would destroy the sandstone."
So Taylor asked the experts.
"He came and talked to us ahead of time, met with our archaeologist and found out a way to do it right," said Jason West, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM's field office in Vernal.
"Sandstone is a very sensitive and brittle rock," West said. "It's very easy to mess it up."
After camping out Friday a few hundred feet from Moonshine Arch, Taylor and his Scouts spent Saturday morning cleaning away the graffiti with the scrub brushes and soapy water recommended by the BLM.
"It just doesn't make sense," Boy Scout Nick Willoughby said. "Why would people put graffiti on a nice, wonderful landform like this?"
Access to the arch used to be limited, but the area was recently opened to motorized travel. That made it easier for some visitors to haul in scores of wooden pallets for large bonfires, West said.
"We came up and found 30 stashed pallets," he said, referring to one find last spring. "It looked like there was going to be a really large burn that would have done significant damage to the arch."
At present, the BLM is working with stakeholders to develop a travel management plan for the lands it administers in eastern Utah. As part of that plan, the agency may seek to restrict direct motorized access to Moonshine Arch, West said, because the bonfires leave countless nails behind, along with piles of charcoal that people use to write on the walls.
"We're lucky it was only charcoal," Taylor said Saturday. "If it had been paint, we'd have had a much bigger job to do."
Of course, the public image of scoutmasters like Taylor has taken a hit in the past couple of weeks, thanks to the actions two Utah men.
Dave Hall and Glenn Taylor — no relation to Brent Taylor — became viral video pariahs in October after a YouTube clip showed them toppling a 170-million-year-old hoodoo at Goblin Valley State Park.
"We have just modified Goblin Valley," Hall crowed on camera as Glenn Taylor looked on.
Both men were booted from the Boy Scouts and could still face criminal charges. They said they feared the rock formation might fall on someone, but admit they never contacted state park officials before deciding to take action on their own.
What happened in Emery County last month is "really disheartening," Brent Taylor said.
"I hope this (service project) will shed light on the true side of the Scout scene," he said, adding that one of his goals for the Moonshine Arch clean up was to help his boys learn respect for the natural world.
The message appeared to get through to Willoughby.
"Go find something funner and better to do with your day, (rather) than come up here and mark up landforms and rocks that people are coming to see," the teen said. "I think it's just stupid to do that."
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