Earth tones will cover graffiti on Earth Day


The Mirror

On April 22, 1970, a movement to protect the environment began. More than 20 million Americans participated in university teach-ins on this first Earth Day. Today, more than 200 million Americans participate in Earth Day activities each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Federal Way citizens will have a chance to be counted among those April 21. In celebration of Earth Day, residents of all ages are invited to partake in a pair of events around the city. “Operation-Cover-up” is an effort to repaint surfaces that have been tagged with graffiti and volunteers will also coordinate a cleanup effort at Brooklake Blueberry Farm.

Volunteers of all ages may participate in the activities, but those under the age of 16 will have to be accompanied by a guardian, Kimberly Paterno, Volunteer and Neighborhood Program Coordinator, said.

“Operation Cover-up” aims at eliminating graffiti, an ongoing problem in Federal Way. Citizens are already prepared to volunteer for other environment-friendly projects, so it seemed logical to paint over the graffiti at the same time, Paterno said.

“We wanted to make ‘Operation Cover-up’ a program that people were aware of,” she said.

Volunteers will concentrate on locations that are frequently marked. Three specific areas, which Paterno was unable to list, will be the main focus. Gray and brown earth tone paint will be used to cover the graffiti. Paint was donated by the King County Hazardous Waste Program and Puget Sound Energy. Some electrical boxes and fire hydrants may also be repainted. A total of 212 gallons of paint have been collected for this project, Paterno said.

Three teams, each repainting one of three designated graffiti areas, will do the work from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. One city official is assigned to each team and will drive the group to and from the specified locations.

The graffiti project follows recent laws passed by the Federal Way City Council on March 20. Painting graffiti is now classified as a public nuisance and is punishable with five days in jail for second-time offenders. Purchasing or having possession of spray paint with intentions of creating graffiti is also illegal now. This is the first effort the city has made to cover graffiti since the laws passed.

To date, approximately 40 people have volunteered for “Operation Cover-up,” according to Paterno.

Volunteers at the Brooklake Blueberry Farm, part of the West Hylebos Wetlands Park at 630 S. 356th St., will prune trees, pick up litter and clear unwanted plant growth, Don Robinett of the Federal Way Surface Water Management Department said. The Hylebos Creek will also be cleared of debris and litter that could possibly cause water damage, flooding and erosion of the stream bank, he said.

“The parks were targeted because they need to be kept beautified and so weeds don’t overgrow what has been planted there,” Paterno said.

The city requests that volunteers bring their own garden tools and dress accordingly in long pants and shirts. A raincoat and a bottle of water may prove useful. Restoration will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until noon. Volunteers are encouraged to stay for a minimum of one hour.

Restoration and clean up of the blueberry farm has been an Earth Day event for the past three years, Paterno said. In 2005 the Brooklake Habitat Restoration Project was completed. This entailed the removal of invasive Himalayan blackberries. Native trees and shrubs were also planted as part of the restoration.

To learn more about Earth Day events or to volunteer to help at the blueberry farm or with repainting surfaces that suffer from graffiti, call (253) 835-2652 or 835-2654.

Staff writer Jacinda Howard: 925-5565,

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A closer look at creek cleanup

Don Robinett, with the Federal Way Surface Water Management Department, will be heading the Lakota Creek cleanup activities on Earth Day. “Maintenance of streams and creeks like this one is important because it helps preserve their water quality,” Robinett said. “It also assists in preventing flooding and erosion along the creek’s banks.”

On April 21, Robinett will lead a crew along the creek’s corridor, from Decatur High School to the creek’s confluence, where two streams converge to become one. The crew will pick up debris and litter along the half-mile stretch.

The creek used to be salmon bearing, Robinett said. Now, only some areas of the creek are accessible to fish. This is in part because of the debris that blocks the path of the fish. The work done by Robinett and his crew will aid the fish in their efforts to make their way upstream.

“It’s important to restore our few salmon-bearing streams, Robinett said.

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