Jon Gaddis has been hiking on trails around Indian Fort Mountain for almost to ten years.
Gaddis, 29, and his wife, Leah, were on a hike Monday up to the West Pinnacle, a large natural rock formation that offers a panoramic view of Berea and Richmond, when something stopped the pair in their tracks.
“There was just paint everywhere,” Gaddis said. “And as we climbed up here, it just got worse.”
Gaddis said his wife braved the top of the rock, where she found multicolored graffiti with names and hearts covering large swaths. Smiley faces and sayings in metallic spray paint weren't there a week ago.
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“It’s always horrible to see something you love desecrated like that,” he said.
Berea College forester Clint Patterson said people have carved their names or spray painted symbols previously, but the latest painting on the West Pinnacle is the worst that's ever occurred along the Indian Fort Mountain Trail.
The trail is part of the forest privately owned by the college; the forest has been open to the public for more than a hundred years, he said.
Patterson said the forestry staff of three had been clearing graffiti with a cordless drill and a wire brush.
“But the extent of the new graffiti is just so massive,” Patterson said. “We might have to take a generator up there, lug it up there and spend days (cleaning).”
The location of some of the paint is close to cliff edges, making it dangerous and difficult to remove, he said.
“It takes seconds to do something that takes several hours or even days to remove,” he said.
Patterson said the amount of graffiti has increased in the last two or three years. He said trail bathrooms are frequent targets.
“When I heard about this, my first reaction was to be angry, be mad,” he said. “...But on a deeper level, it’s something to be sad about.”
Patterson thinks vandalism has increased because some younger people don't feel the same connection to nature that was taught the people of his generation.
Catching the West Pinnacle vandals would be difficult, he said. There are names written in paint, but that’s not enough information.
He hopes people who see the vandalism at West Pinnacle will be motivated to stop graffiti..
“This is a place that’s enjoyed by a wide segment of the community, people come here from all over,” he said. “Let’s not let this behavior represent who we are here.”