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Sat, June 25

QUIET HEROES: Repairing graffiti damage behind the scenes

The Graffiti Removal Team prepare to tackle the repair of graffiti damage.

The Graffiti Removal Team prepare to tackle the repair of graffiti damage.

The magical beauty of Sedona has attracted an overwhelming amount of tourists. We are all familiar with the issues of traffic jams, lack of parking, littering and crowded trails.

There is one critical issue, however, that is often overlooked and might cause the most permanent damage of all – the defacing of our beautiful rocks, trees, and archaeological sites. Rock scratching, spray painting, rock stacking, and carving on live trees are becoming an almost daily occurrence. Some of the most abused areas (such as Courthouse and Bell Rock) are here in the Village of Oak Creek.


Graffiti at Cathedral Rock.

This is the damage the Graffiti Removal team tackles and repairs every day.

The team is part of the Friends of the Forest, a local volunteer organization which was founded to help preserve our National Forest and Wilderness. Armed with sandpaper, wire brushes, paint remover, water, and more exotic tools such as “Orange Safety Spray #2” and “Elephant Snot,” they respond to every graffiti report. They put in over 2,000 hours of repair work and respond to over 500 graffiti incident reports per year. At the same time, they diligently monitor social media sites for postings of graffiti incidents. Although this may sound like grueling work, the team’s camaraderie and positive attitude makes each effort rewarding and enjoyable.


Before and After at Courthouse Butte

Some of the damage cannot be fixed. Scratching or painting over pictographs or historic rock art is often permanent. The carving of live trees cannot be repaired and endangers the survival of the tree. However, with each successful repair they know that they are making a difference – and they can use your help.

If you see graffiti, report it.

Graffiti invites more graffiti, so removing it as soon as possible is best. Please do not try to remove it yourself; let the team use their special techniques to minimize the damage.


Removing graffiti at Cathedral Rock

Also, the next generation is our best hope of reducing this type of damage and protecting our fragile environment, so when hiking with children please stress the importance of “Leave No Trace.” You can even make it fun for kids by creating a type of treasure hunt to look for evidence of graffiti to report.

To file a report, please send an email to Please give a detailed location and pictures if possible, as this gives the team an idea of what kinds of equipment will be required to clean the area.

Finally, if you wish to learn more about these efforts, please visit the Friends of the Forest Sedona website and consider joining the Graffiti Removal Team or one of their many other teams. The Friends of the Forest have many activities and projects that help to reduce the environmental damage caused by increased human contact. You will find that you have fun and make new friends while helping preserve this natural wonder we call home.


The Graffiti Removal Team cleans Bell Rock.

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