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Volunteers blast away offensive graffiti from Durango climbing area

X-rock, a popular crag, was hit with vulgar, racist images in June
Volunteer Brandon Rasmussen uses a pressure washer Saturday to remove graffiti that was spray-painted on rocks in the X-rock area. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The popular climbing crag, locally known as X-rock, is finally clean after being hit with unsettling graffiti in early June.

The racist, vulgar and antisemitic text and images spanned areas from the parking lot and trail to rock faces around the X-rock formation, located just north of Durango on the west side of U.S. Highway 550. On Saturday, the nonprofit Keeping Colorado Beautiful, local volunteers and La Plata County staff members spent hours removing paint from the area.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” said Luke Mehall, president of the Durango Climbers Coalition. About a dozen coalition volunteers helped with the graffiti removal. “It’s unacceptable to have graffiti on our rocks. Graffiti can be an art form, but not on our public lands.”

Volunteer Matt King points to graffiti that was spray-painted on rocks in the X-rock area. The graffiti included racist, vulgar and antisemitic text and imagery. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Keeping Colorado Beautiful, which specializes in graffiti removal from natural formations, led the cleanup project. The group uses eco-friendly solvents and pressure washing to remove paint without damaging the rock surface.

“There were quite a few tags,” said Stephen Singer, founder and CEO of the group. “I’d guesstimate there were probably several hundred square feet total.”

Reports of the graffiti began to crop up around June 8. One Durango climber, Ryan Willard, posted photos and a call to action on Facebook, prompting more than 100 comments from people outraged about the incident and volunteering to help fix it.

The graffiti included swastikas, depictions of male anatomy and a racial slur. It was spray-painted on rocks near the lower parking lot, along the trail leading to X-rock and on the climbing area underneath the X-rock formation, Willard said in a previous interview with The Durango Herald.

It was also on climbing anchors at the top of the well-known Gold Wall route and on the base of the route, called the Gold Face. The wall is accessible by hiking and climbing, he said.

Most of the images were painted over by the time the cleanup took place Saturday, Singer said.

Stephen Singer, left, with Keeping Colorado Beautiful, Glen Hood, with La Plata County and a group of volunteers work to remove graffiti on rocks in the X-rock area Saturday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The X-rock area spans La Plata County, city of Durango and Bureau of Land Management land, but the graffiti fell under the county’s jurisdiction. The local climbing community began working with the county after the graffiti incident to organize a cleanup.

“It took us quite a while just to get all the resources together to do the cleanup,” Mehall said. “It’s definitely a very involved process. Some of the graffiti was so high we had to use ropes to clean it up.”

The Durango Climbers Coalition would also “like to figure out who committed the graffiti and address that appropriately,” Mehall said.

Another upsetting issue for the site: illegal camping and trash, he said.

“We also want to put pressure on the police, the city of Durango and La Plata County to make sure that people aren’t camping in these areas and trashing them,” Mehall said.

A cleanup crew, led by the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and jail inmates, removed 12 bags of trash from the X-rock climbing area north of Durango city limits in late June.

“Everyone needs to step up and keep these areas safe and clean for our community,” Mehall said.


Volunteer Stephen Ponzer uses a pressure washer Saturday to remove graffiti in the X-rock area. The Durango climbing community expressed outrage at the graffiti incident and helped organize the cleanup effort. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

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