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Vulgar graffiti mars rocks at Larrabee’s ‘pristine’ Clayton Beach

Lauren McDermott and her sons Sawyer McDermott, 3, and Kaden McDermott, 5, walk in water by the rocks sprayed with graffiti at Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park south of Bellingham on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. “It’s sad to see this type of disrespect,” McDermott said.
Lauren McDermott and her sons Sawyer McDermott, 3, and Kaden McDermott, 5, walk in water by the rocks sprayed with graffiti at Clayton Beach in Larrabee State Park south of Bellingham on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. “It’s sad to see this type of disrespect,” McDermott said. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Eva Dewig was stunned by what she saw on Mother’s Day when she reached Clayton Beach at Larrabee State Park just south of Bellingham.

There, in the midst of beautiful scenery on a sunny day, was a swath of sandstone rock defaced by graffiti in an area that’s popular with families.

“It’s time for our revolution,” read one underneath a swastika and “SS.” Another simply read “no crime” while other sections had spray-painted profanities, penises and the phrase “stay high cuz pigs can’t fly.”

“It’s sickening,” said Dewig, a Bellingham resident. “I’ve never seen that much damage on one rock face that was pristine.”

The vandalism is under investigation, said ranger Amber Forest, interim manager for Larrabee State Park.

Park officials also are asking for assistance from the Bellingham Police Department’s tagging and gang unit.

“We’re hoping to get some help from them to see if they have any idea who it might be. We haven’t dealt with anything on this large of a scale since I’ve worked here, which is 12 years,” Forest said. “We usually don’t get tagged like that. It’s extraordinary.”

Forest said the graffiti started last year but the more recent tagging, which likely occurred within the past couple of months, covered a few hundred feet, with much of the damage on sandstone.

I don’t think Larrabee State Park has ever seen anything like that. We were devastated when we saw that.

Ranger Amber Forest of extensive graffiti at Clayton Beach

It’s likely the vandalism is being done in the middle of the night, the ranger said, and repairing the damage will cost thousands of dollars.

Dewig, who described herself as an avid hiker, said she goes to Clayton Beach about five or six times a year.

“I’d just never seen anything like it before,” she said.

Park officials are trying to figure out how to remove the graffiti, a difficult feat because it’s on sandstone and on the edge of Bellingham Bay so the work will have to consider the sensitive environment. It can’t be painted over.

An attempt last year to remove previous graffiti was unsuccessful; it ended up just smearing the paint, Forest said.

Dewig hopes whoever is responsible is caught, noting that law enforcement goes after people who vandalize national parks. Park rangers will increase patrolling that area.

And she hopes the graffiti can be removed.

“It is not what Bellingham is trying to send out to people who come here on vacation,” she said. “It doesn’t belong here.”

The state park was named after the Larrabee family, which donated 1,520 acres. It became Washington’s first state park on Nov. 22, 1915.

The state bought the 98-acre Clayton Beach site from private owners and added it to the park around 1989.

It’s a popular spot at the southern end of the park but can’t be reached without crossing BNSF railroad tracks. State parks and railroad officials have for years told people they can’t cross the tracks to reach the state-owned property at the edge of the water, but to little avail.

Larrabee State Park gets nearly 750,000 visitors and 35,000 campers a year.

Forest said staff regularly deals with vandalism, but it’s usually on a much smaller scale, along the lines of someone spray-painting a garbage can or declaring their love by carving it into a rock.

But the recent graffiti was something else.

“I don’t think Larrabee State Park has ever seen anything like that,” Forest said. “We were devastated when we saw that.”

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Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

How to help

Amber Forest, interim manager of Larrabee State Park, said people who want to help deal with or remove graffiti painted on rocks at Clayton Beach can do so by calling 360-676-2093.

Officials are still trying to figure out how to fix the vandalism but will be glad to accept the public’s help when the time comes.

“It’s always great to have people come and help with solving a problem,” Forest said.

People also can contact the park office if they see anything suspicious.

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