Graffiti Removal at the Northwest Branch, MD

By Ocean Eiler, Access Fund Regional Coordinator for Virginia

It was a hot, muggy morning as I walked outside with my first cup of coffee. The fog was thick and suffocating. Taking a sip of coffee, I smirked to myself. Of course the first day of summer would come on the day I'd planned to do a mini crag cleanup. Out of the fog, Gill appeared.

Forty-five minutes later, we were in the parking lot of Northwest Branch Park (NWB) with the leaders that managed the NWB Adopt-A-Crag two months earlier. Previously cold weather conditions had shutdown our plans to do graffiti removal from the boulders. Today, with temperatures predicted in the upper 90s, this was not a problem.

The players were Addison Helmke, Chris Irwin, Scott Kragen, Thomson Ling, Gill Lingenfelter, Nicole Martino, Libby Sommer, and myself. Donning protective eye-ware and gloves, we armed ourselves with buckets and brushes and headed off into the boulder fields.

Our main focus was a popular boulder called Reefer Rock. Over the years it has attracted many an aspiring graffiti artist. This translates to numerous paint layers.

Water, brushing, and positive thoughts alone would not remove this paint. We came armed with a secret weapon, Soytech. Soytech is a biodegradable (soy-based) graffiti removal product that was donated to us by Randy Frees at Soy Technologies, LLC. His huge donation made this venture a reality.

Roughly four hours later we had made a significant dent in the graffiti covering Reefer Rock. I would love to say we removed all of it but the layers of graffiti were just too dense in places. However, as we surveyed our work I think we felt good about what we had done. These first steps are part of a much larger commitment to the Northwest Branch crag.

Thank you to Mid Atlantic Climbers, Access Fund, and the Maryland, Virginia, and DC climbing communities that help support us. A special thank you to Randy Frees at Soy Technologies, LLC, without his help this project would not have been possible.