ST. GEORGE — After crowds flooded state parks around Southern Utah this weekend, groups of locals banded together to clean up the areas after there was vandalism at Sand Hollow and trash left behind at Gunlock.
The Desert Roads and Trails Society, in conjunction with the Utah Public Lands Alliance, got together to sandblast graffiti that was done on a large rock face at Sand Hollow State Park.
“When we found out about the graffiti, we posted it up on social media, had several volunteers, got with BLM and got approval to sandblast the graffiti off,” Desert Roads and Trails Society’s Jeff Bieber said. “This past Sunday morning at 9 o’clock there was about 25 of us that met at Sand Hollow State Park. We then went over and proceeded to sandblast the graffiti off and we got it all. It looks pretty good.”
The group has not previously done graffiti removal on that large of a scale, but they have done some graffiti removal in the past. Bieber said the removal took longer than expected, but they kept at it and got it done.
Gil Meacham, a member of the Utah Public Lands Alliance, was also called in to help with the work. Their group bought the sand for the blaster and some people to help out with the cleanup efforts.
Meacham said it was really nice to see. He also said it worked out well and they had plenty of people to work on the vandalism. Their goal as a whole is to try and keep Sand Hollow and Sand Mountain as clean as possible.
“It’s pretty disappointing when we see people that do vandalism. Wherever we mark a landmark, like the hobbit house, we would hope that people would respect that,” Meacham said. “It’s really disappointing to us because we work full time to make that place as good of an experience as we can.”
Bieber added that the mountain is a passion for the locals. They use the trails often and enjoy the scenery and do not want to see it with graffiti on it.
“It’s used by thousands all year long,” Bieber said. “Just respect it and pull your trash out. If you see somebody not respecting it, report it.”
For Gunlock State Park, Tony Engel got a group of volunteers together to pick up loads of trash that were left behind after a huge surge in visitors closed the park for the weekend.
Engel described the park as his family’s spot. They enjoy boating and find the waters to be less crowded and safer than other parks like Sand Hollow.
“We were out there boating on Sunday, and we docked the boat to walk down to the waterfalls,” Engel said. “We just saw a tremendous amount of trash and we were upset and frustrated.”
Engel and his wife woke up on Monday and went out to Gunlock with about 10 trash bags to fill. The bags were filled in less than an hour. They did not realize just how much trash there was in the park and quickly saw that they could not do it on their own.
They then took to social media where some of their posts were shared and word got out. The group of volunteers cleaned up trash at Gunlock State Park Tuesday morning.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” Engel said. “It’s tough to see a place so beautiful get destroyed. It takes away from the serenity of it. If you’re trying to go out there and look at the views and waterfalls, if you’re stepping over diapers and beer cans that doesn’t have near the appeal as raw nature.”
He described the community outreach and the response on social media as giving him “chills.” He had no idea that the cleanup would get the attention that it did, and he started a Facebook group in response to the outpouring of efforts to clean the state park.
The group is called Keeping Southern Utah Beautiful and it can be found on Facebook here. Their next goal is to tackle Sand Hollow and organize a trash cleanup there.
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