An area environmentalist is asking for help preventing graffiti damage to Tuscaloosa's Hurricane Creek Park - a crown jewel of natural beauty here in our backyard.

John Wathen, the longtime Hurricane Creekkeeper, says people are defacing rock formations in the park that are millions of years old with spray-painted graffiti.

Wathen decried the damage in a blog post, saying the problem was virtually nonexistent just a decade ago, but now paint covers a troubling number of rock formations, fossils, and natural-grown moss, ferns and lichen, especially on the trail closest to the park's entrance on Old Birmingham Highway.

(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
(Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)
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"This is in a public park and was at one time the most beautiful section of trail in the entire 250-acre park," Wathen wrote. "It is now just an eyesore and reminder of how a handful of irresponsible, immature people can mess it up for everyone!"

Wathen said the park belongs to the Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority, and it's their job to prevent and remove graffiti. He said their still-new CEO Brian Davis has committed to improving their patrols at Hurricane Creek.

"We are hoping that under the new direction at PARA, we can find a way to communicate better and work together on resolving this issue," Wathen said.

Davis confirmed to the Thread that the organization is aware of the issue and is trying to combat it.

"PARA is committed to the well-being of our community as well as the maintenance and operations of our parks and facilities. We will do everything we can to remove the graffiti and restore the park to its natural beauty," Davis said. "Unfortunately, vandalism has occurred at some of our other parks as well, and we work closely with city and county leadership along with our police departments and sheriff's offices to catch offenders and prevent future damage."

Both parties said the best way to keep parks beautiful is to take pride in them, to report issues when you see them and volunteer either directly with PARA or with other organizations to clean these precious spaces up.

"Someone knows or saw who is responsible for the graffiti. Please help us stop this desecration by reporting anyone you see doing it," Wathen said. "Spray cans of paint have no business in the park. If you see someone heading into the woods and a rattle can of paint, report it! If you see someone defacing the rocks, don't confront them, take pictures and report them."

Hurricane Creek is a site of geographical, botanical and zoological wonder and the biodiversity there was celebrated often by world-renowned Harvard entomologist E. O. Wilson.

"This is the site of a reservoir of biodiversity, the fauna and flora of a state like Alabama, which is the richest in the United States," Wilson said. "This is a fabulously rich region of the United States approached only in Asia, eastern Asia, along the Tibetan plateau, China and India. You have to go all the way around the world to find anything as rich as this."

For more coverage of this issue and others in west Alabama, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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Gallery Credit: (Stephen Dethrage | Tuscaloosa Thread)