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Graffiti artists: Avoid the concrete jungle or risk arrest

August 31st, 2014 Posted in Opinion

By Katherine Larsen

LOGAN — After spending thousands of dollars and a week of sandblasting and painting over colorful graffiti in the “concrete jungle” — the concrete structures located on the hillside at the entrance to Logan Canyon —  police say anyone caught trespassing will now be arrested.

“Anyone that goes up there past the signs will be cited for trespassing,” said Sgt. Jason Olsen of the Logan City Police Department, who patrols the concrete jungle area. “With school being in session people might think it’s OK, but if you ignore the signs you will be cited criminally.”

The area has been a popular destination for graffiti artists for more than 20 years. However, when canal work was completed last year the area became even more accessible for hikers and the amount of graffiti increased, said Logan city public works director Mark Nielsen.

“It has had some tagging on it before, but with the new trail and new canal project it got easier to get up there,” Nielsen said. “So we just had a tremendously fast influx of graffiti. We were amazed about how widespread throughout the valley the desire was to come and paint and leave their mark up there.”

The increase in graffiti and the area’s location at the entrance of the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway caused the Forest Service district to send a request for another paint-over, Nielsen said. What made this paint over different from others in the past was the police patrol that was set up to discourage future tagging, Olsen said, adding that two or three trespassers were apprehended by police each week Olsen.

The “no trespassing” signs may not be around for long, Nielsen said. Logan’s mayor and the county are working together to make the trail safe for public use.

“There’s two modes of thought: one is that more public up there will reduce the graffiti,” Nielsen said. “We would hope that people would use restraint. Another thought is to tear down what is not currently useful up there in the concrete area.”

Yet the graffiti was what attracted many hikers to the trail, including Adam Fisher, a watershed and earth systems major at Utah State University.

“I just liked to feel the creativity and diversity,” Fisher said. “I liked all the colors too, they were pretty vivid. It kind of felt like a museum. You could tell some people really put a lot of thought into what they were graffitiing.”

Hiking up to the concrete jungle to see the graffiti had even become part of the USU experience, according to English literature major Kenzie Christensen. “It’s got just a really cool vibe to it,” Christensen said. “It’s just part of the classic Utah State experience. Everybody that went up here before me told me before I came up here, ‘oh you’ve got to go to the concrete jungle, it’s so much fun.’ It’s just a classic Logan experience to just go up there with your friends even if you weren’t painting anything. It’s definitely a sad thing that has happened.”

Though the graffiti attracted USU students to hike the concrete jungle trail, some of the graffiti characters might also hinder efforts to open the trail from public use.

“Some of the graffiti people don’t want to see and it is not the place for it,” Sgt. Olsen said. “There’s a big old picture of a penis up there. Families don’t want to see that. Some of it is just downright crude.”

Other similar occurrences have happened in different cities where graffiti landmarks were painted over, like that of a graffiti gallery known as 5Pointz in Queens, New York, that was painted over before it was torn down Aug. 22. The discussion of whether or graffiti should be preserved is an ongoing one.

“Some of those people were super talented and I loved seeing what they had painted up there,” Christensen said. “Obviously you don’t want that all over public buildings, but I felt that the concrete jungle was a great place to do that. It was out of the way and not being used for anything so I thought it was a great outlet.”

Efforts to keep the concrete area free of graffiti will continue, Nielsen said. “We will always try to either get it off, seal it so so it’s easier to get off or we will paint over it.”


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