INDEX — They watched graffiti pass by as they paddled along the river.
The boulders that line the South Fork Skykomish River had become a canvas.
Christian Knight and his three children learned to kayak just downstream of Eagle Falls, a popular swimming hole near Index. Over the past few years, they had noticed the graffiti growing worse.
Knight reached out to the U.S. Forest Service for help, but resources were limited. So, he planned his own clean-up project.
Knight set up a website, filmed a promotional video and posted on social media. About 75 kayakers, swimmers and other outdoor enthusiasts met in the morning Aug. 5. They spent the day scrubbing rocks with wire brushes.
“If you went down there before Saturday morning, you would have seen an incredibly beautiful area that was devolving into something like the (Los Angeles) River,” Knight said.
He lived in Skykomish in the 1990s, but has since moved to Kirkland. Knight still returns to Eagle Falls several times a year. He takes his children to the calm stretch of river where he learned to paddle 22 years ago. The advice he stresses with his kids is they leave the river as they found it.
Others did not follow that suggestion.
People had commemorated a jump from the rock cliff into the river below by spray-painting the date on the rocks.
Knight found it ironic that someone had written, “be the change you want to see in the world” in red paint.
“The graffiti makes it look like it’s normal, and even popular, to desecrate a place,” Knight said.
Most of the volunteers who spent their Saturday removing paint were kayakers from the area. Families who had planned to go swimming grabbed extra wire brushes and lent a hand. A little girl in inflatable water wings even joined in.
A Seattle-based group donated a wet blaster, which sprayed a mixture of water and sand. Volunteers cleaned nearly every bit of paint. Now they’re waiting for a good rainstorm to rinse the rocks off.
“It’s hard to show how much effort goes into leaving no trace,” Knight said. “That’s how you show you love a place.”
Caitlin Tompkins: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org.