RI ATV group helps clean hate graffiti from state lands

For a group of mountain bikers, the decision to help clean hate graffiti from the rocks in the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich was an easy one.

“We’re offended by this filth, as any decent person would be,” said Alan Winsor, a West Greenwich resident and president of the Rhode Island chapter of New England Mountain Bike Association.

Contacted by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on Friday, Winsor and five other members of the association agreed to come to the management area on Tuesday morning to remove the graffiti, which included a swastika and what appeared to be SS lightning sets.

Following:East Greenwich woman wonders why it takes so long to remove hateful graffiti from hiking area

Rhode Island members of the New England Mountain Bike Association, accustomed to trail work in the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich, head to the cluster of boulders disfigured by hate graffiti.

East Greenwich resident Renu Englehart spotted the graffiti about three weeks ago and contacted DEM – but said she was frustrated the department hadn’t acted sooner to remove the offensive symbols.

East Greenwich City Council member Englehart wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “As a dark-haired person who walks the RIDEM woods everyday, picks up trash and tells everyone how great these properties are, why do we allow tagging in the woods? Everyone uses them as spaces for contemplation. “

DEM said staff shortages were preventing the department from cleaning up the rocks earlier. DEM does not own the Big River Management Area, but helps manage it for the owner, the Rhode Island Water Resources Board.

DEM District Resource Manager Jeff Arnold reached out to Winsor on Friday, who agreed to help with the cleanup and found five more volunteers. They “told us they would be happy to help remove the graffiti,” said Michael Healey, public information officer for DEM.

Jeff Arnold, district resource manager for the state's Department of Environmental Management, with a can of paint stripper on the graffiti-covered rocks.  Arnold enlisted the help of the ATV group.

The cleanup was not easy, as the rocks are well sunk in the woods. DEM initially thought maybe they should paint over the symbols, but instead, mountain bikers first applied “graffiti removal solution” and then used water from a nearby stream to scrub and rinse off rocks, Healey said.

The mountain biking association often rides the trails in the Big River Management area and is firmly committed to giving back, according to Winsor. Healey says the group “is already doing major trail work in Big River and will be joining DEM on a trail clean-up day” on Saturday.

Arnold played an “integral” role in helping DEM form partnerships with the Mountain Bike Association, as well as with Rhody Riders, an off-road motorcycle group, and the Federation of Rhode Island Riding Clubs. , horsemen, “to restore and maintain miles of multi-use trails in state management areas,” Healey said.

“These organizations dedicate hundreds of volunteer hours each year to help keep our management areas open and accessible, Healey said. “We greatly appreciate their good citizenship and their actions. Without them, especially given our staff shortage, it is almost impossible for us to imagine how we could maintain all the trails in the management area. “

Mountain biker Keith Tremblay sprays remover on graffiti in the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich.

Reached Tuesday morning, Englehart was happy to hear that the graffiti had been removed. “I’m really thankful that they are doing something about this,” she said. She then came out and thanked the group.

While Englehart acknowledged the DEM’s staff shortage, she still believes the issue should have been addressed sooner.

The ministry manages nearly 90,000 acres of land, including 52 Wildlife Management Areas for public use. A frequent hiker, Englehart said she would be “happy to lead the charge” for more funding for DEM.

The graffiti-marred woodland area is a popular hangout, Winsor said before heading into the woods, and the rocks have already been marked. There is a lot of paint on the rocks.

“We are going to have the worst,” he said.

(Correction: An earlier version of this report had the wrong hometown for Englehart.)

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Maria R. Newman