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Burb's Eye View: Nature center paints over graffiti with nature-matching colors.

June 12, 2013|By Bryan Mahoney
  • Bryan Mahoney
Bryan Mahoney

The graffiti was applied with some talent, but talent alone could not save the artist's work from erasure.

Nick Wilhelm approached the creation almost apologetically with a paint roller attached to a broom handle.

"[The taggers will] probably look at us as, 'Oh, you gave us a fresh palette,'" he said.

At least one city employee says that's not always the case. Besides, this particular work is located high above Burbank, overlooking the chimney and foundation on a plateau overlooking the city and Stough Canyon Nature Center.

"In my experience, graffiti begets more graffiti. If you stop it, eventually they'll move on," said Ernie Seiler, senior recreation leader for the city.

That's why Seiler and three nature center docents (plus one columnist carrying a bag of donuts) trucked seven gallons of paint and four paint rollers up the Verdugo trails to the old concrete cistern above a flat campsite.

Weekly Sierra Club fitness hikes often pass by the concrete cistern, labeled over the years with what Seiler described as "alien Morse code."

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Earlier this year, someone decided to paint over the scrawling, adding a bubbly burst of greens and blues. It made little more sense than its predecessor, but it did make an impact.

Hikers reported the work to nature center staff. The city's contract with its graffiti removal service doesn't cover off-road trails, so with a donation of paint from the Sierra Club, the docents took to the hills Saturday morning on a mission of eradication.

The dollies carrying the three-gallon drums nearly went off the edge of a ridge as the docents struggled to wheel them uphill. One volunteer's car stalled on the uphill, so the effort was further complicated by an impromptu shuttle system involving a city pickup truck.

Once the removal team was in place, work went quickly. The color was chosen to blend in with the natural surroundings — Seiler is probably one of the only Lowe's customers ever to bring in a pile of dirt and rocks to help match the paint color.

Rather than enjoy their customary Saturday morning coffees, the men spent two hours scrambling up to the structure, painting it inside and out, then marching back down the hill.

Nature Center Director Carol Mercado hopes the new paint job will last, though should someone try again there's more paint to go around.

"I think it puts the message out: 'I can't just do what I want up here. There are people looking out for these things,'" Mercado said.

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BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not carting breakfast to a concrete reservoir, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter at @818NewGuy.

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