Graffiti smeared on the face of the Big Rock has some residents in dismay.
Earlier in April, Okotoks resident Jayson Nordean took his young family out to the provincial historic site to explore and get up close to the famed Big Rock.
“We went on the other side of the fence, where you’re not supposed to, but everyone goes in there,” said Nordean. “We went in there and there was a bunch of graffiti sprayed on the rock.”
The graffiti includes black spray-painted symbols like hearts and smiley faces, and profanity.
“It’s not the best thing to be seeing, and with what it said you get little kids asking, ‘What does that say?’, and it’s like, ‘I don’t want to tell you,’” said Nordean.
He reported the graffiti to Alberta Culture and Tourism, which looks after provincial historic sites and museums.
Catherine Whalley, executive director of the historic sites and museum branch with Alberta Culture and Tourism, said the same incident had been reported in January, but due to weather it has not been possible to remove the markings.
“We do have to wait for the weather to warm up and to be consistently warm, so probably over 10 degrees at nighttime for a number of days,” said Whalley.
It needs to be warm so clean-up efforts don’t damage the rock further, she said. A restoration team will visit the Big Rock and determine the course of action.
Depending on the precise location of the graffiti, the type of paint used, and how hard or soft the stone in the area is, the method of removal may be different, she said. Because the Big Rock isn’t made of strong stone, the team must ensure its cleanup does not erode away or removing the rock itself.
One of the methods would be to use a controlled water-based power-washing of the rock to gradually spray away the graffiti, she said. If it persists, it may be necessary to use a chemical solvent, she said.
“But we do need the weather to be warm in order to do it, so particularly if we’re using any sort of liquid on it, it isn’t freezing and then causing any sort of expansion and contraction in the rock at night,” said Whalley.
She said graffiti removal likely won’t be done until mid-May. The cost will not be known until that time, though she said graffiti removal of this nature typically runs close to $1,000.
This is not the first time there has been graffiti at the Big Rock.
Despite signs warning not to deface the erratic, it still happens from time, she said.
“I would say that it is occasional but regular,” said Whalley. “It’s not unheard of. But this has been the first graffiti reported to us I think in about 20 to 22 months.”
She said the erratic sees thousands of visitors each year, and for the most part people are respectful of the Big Rock.
“It’s unfortunate but it does happen from time to time,” said Whalley. “When vandalism does happen we do report it to the local RCMP and we do request additional drive-bys so that they can monitor the site, because it is a protected provincial historic resource.”