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Jun 3, 2013 7:37 PM by Erika Flores

Saguaro Park grafitti bums out hikers and forest officials

TUCSON - Vandalism at the Saguaro National Park East is costing thousands and hurting the environment.

Tagging is on the rise this spring, and park employees are struggling to bring the park back to its tag-free state.

Eleven saguaro cacti have been tagged on Douglas Spring Trail at the Saguaro National Park.

Staff has tried to put this out for a whole month now but it's presenting quite a challenge.

"That's a matte black spray paint," said Brad Shattuck, Saguaro National Park's facilities manager.

It's sprayed across the saguaros.

It is one thing to remove paint from a step, a sign even a rock, but from a cactus, that's another story.

"We did try a little bit right here in this area and a little bit in this area, neither worked," said Shattuck.

Shattuck has been brainstorming with staff-- even the community on how to remove this eyesore.

"The darkness of it was lightened a little bit, but I was seeing some scaling coming off the cactus, so I stopped immediately," said Shattuck.

He's trying green products, testing them on prickly pear cacti first making sure nothing toxic touches the saguaros.

"We want to make sure our plants are treated in the best possible way," said Shattuck.

It's quite a process, and the park's staff is scratching their heads wondering why nothing has worked.

"I don't know. I wish I knew," said Shattuck.

It's frustrating not only for park employees but the community who come to this trail to enjoy nature.

"It's really depressing just to see that people are just ruining Mother Nature," said Hiker Faith Smith.

Hiker Terrie Glazier is also disappointed.

"You wonder sometimes what they're really thinking. Why do they do such a thing?" said Glazier.

This vandalism is costing thousands, but it's not just the money.

"Just five minutes of spray paint is going to take a long long time for it to heal," said Shattuck.

Using heavy equipment or power washing is out of the question.

To preserve wildlife, whatever method used will have to be by hand, but the park is not giving up.

They're in the process of testing two more products on graffiti.

To report vandalism or any other illegal activity in Saguaro National Park, call the park information hotline at 520-733-5150.

Callers can remain anonymous.

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