Graffiti is highly prevalent in Santa Paula Canyon and mars most of the rock faces along the length of the trail. Not only is this graffiti a visual blight on the scenic landscape, but it also introduces toxic chemicals into the environment and specifically the watershed and all of the life within it.
Attempts to remove the graffiti are costly, time-consumptive, often times have further environmental impacts as well, and are easily nullified with more graffiti. Sandblasters erode away the rock underlying the paint, which leaves a permanent scar on the rock. Graffiti removal chemicals are much more hazardous than the original spray paints. Recently, people have taken to simply painting over the graffiti with neutrally colored non-hazardous paint. While the results of this final method are not always perfect, the technique is fast and cheap, allowing for large amounts of graffiti to be removed easily.
ForestWatch is working with our partners the U.S. Forest Service and the Ventura County Sheriff to increase patrols in the canyon. The penalty for graffiti on national forest land is a minimum $250 fine and/or a mandatory appearance in federal court, where a judge can assess fines of up to $5,000 or 6 months in jail. By working together, the U.S. Forest Service and the Ventura County Sheriff can ensure more consistent patrols of this area. A public outreach campaign would ensure that potential vandals are aware of, and are deterred by, harsh penalties.
Once it becomes known that Santa Paula Canyon is not a place where graffiti will be tolerated, volunteers and agencies can work together to organize graffiti removal projects. Through a combined effort, within a few short months Santa Paula Canyon could be free of graffiti and can once again become a safe place for families to enjoy.