Students, other volunteers clean graffiti off Midstate rock formation

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MOUNT HOLLY SPRINGS, Pa. (WHTM) – A local treasure scarred by spray paint is getting new life thanks to volunteers.

Cleanup efforts commenced for the fifth time this year to return Hammonds Rocks near Mount Holly Springs to its natural beauty.

From a water tanker driven up the mountain and through long hoses along the trails to the rocks, Thursday was bath time for the monument.

“It works better for everyone to keep it clean,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ranger Todd Ottinger said.

Tom Rowan, a teacher at Yellow Breeches Educational Center, brought his students to the rock formation to help; one of several cleanups they’ve been a part of throughout the Midstate.

“So you put a bunch of chemicals,” Rowan explained. “You paint it on, you let it dry, and then you scrub it. And then you hose it off and you scrub it some more.”

The group of students spent hours scrubbing off years — decades — of spray paint.

“Oh, it was terrible,” student Andrew Snyder said. “Like this whole rock right here, all these rocks were filled with graffiti.”

“I don’t understand why somebody would ever want to do that,” Amanda Trimmer said. She’s the public relations and outreach coordinator for the nonprofit Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, which helped organize the cleanup.

“If you come up on an old building and there’s a bunch of broken windows,” Rowan said, “people are just going to, yeah, keep breaking windows because they’ll think it’s okay.”

Same thing here — one of 37 graffiti hot spots on state lands, Trimmer said. People see paint, people add paint.

“It’s disheartening to have the graffiti here,” Ottinger said, spraying down rock with water, “but it’s very nice to have it removed.”

The cost for the five cleanups at this spot so far this year is around $20,000, Ottinger said.

“Everybody wants to see the project to completion and get people back out here enjoying it the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed,” Trimmer said.

There’s still work to do; some of the higher tags require people to rappel from the top. But the group there Thursday hopes all their good progress doesn’t wash away.

“You know, positive behavior breeds positive behavior,” Trimmer said.

“I think if we clean it up and show people, like, hey, this is a really nice area, and we take care of it, then they’re going to be more likely to take care of it,” Rowan said.

The DCNR is currently working to prosecute five people for spray painting the rocks, Ottinger said.

The most likely charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to two years in jail. But depending on how much it costs to clean up, some may be facing felony charges.

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