Graffiti problems continue near Donner Summit |

Graffiti problems continue near Donner Summit

Amanda Rhoades |

Despite the news coverage of graffiti problems in the region, and the high-profile cases of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park, the problem continues to spread in outdoor recreation areas.

Graffiti once limited to inside the unused train tunnels near Donner Summit is now spilling outside the walls and all over the nearby granite slabs overlooking Donner Lake.

“It’s been steadily growing through the years. People have dated a lot of the stuff they’ve painted and I’m seeing stuff as old as 2014,” said climber and trail worker Joe Saska. “They’re pretty much hiking in extension ladders at this point.”

In the 6 years that Saska has lived in the area, he’s spent a large amount of his time working on trails in the area. He said he’s noticed a massive uptick in the amount of graffiti since the walls inside the abandoned tunnels have started to fill up.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say its good artwork inside the tunnels, but you can’t have one without the other, and the tunnels are getting filled,” he said.

The graffiti has spread to areas visible by the road, and the tunnels have exploded in popularity over recent years (the hike even has five stars on Yelp).

“I guess artwork is different to everyone … they might do it to have their art seen by the masses,” he said. “I was speaking to someone recently, who said that those tunnels are known for graffiti even in the Bay Area.”

But Saska, like many, doesn’t think the graffiti adds much to the natural landscape. He’s hoping to help organize a coalition to help clean the graffiti and patrol the area so new tags aren’t put up.

Saska’s is currently in discussions with the Forest Service, other climbers, and a number of other groups in town to see how they can take care of the problem, but because of the amount of graffiti already up and how highly trafficked the area is, it’s going to be difficult.

“It’s going to take more than just the Forest Service,” he said. “It’s going to have to be a cooperative effort.”

Saska said his goal is to get any of the man-made structures with graffiti repainted, and to have graffiti on rocks and other natural elements removed. That way he said, people would know that if they paint something it will not last.

“We’ve got to move to show this isn’t going to fly here any more,” Saska said.

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at or 530-550-2653. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @akrhoades.

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