Volunteers will tackle beacons in Albany parks | Local

When Chuck Poirier jumps out of his car to cover rival beacons, he hopes it’s permanent.

The Albany retiree and U.S. Navy veteran hosted a graffiti cleanup on Saturday, May 28 for volunteers from the city’s parks department. It is the first of its kind with others scheduled on the last Saturday of each month.

Poirier estimates that he spends five hours a week spotting, documenting and painting over graffiti. He has hobbies, he says – he fishes sometimes.

But “I get personal satisfaction from painting,” he said. “I can see something has changed at the end of the day.”

Now he has help. A family on foot, a couple looking for something to do on a Saturday, and a car full of teenagers from a local Baha’i religious group met him at Grand Prairie Park to take their marching orders.

Poirier calls on the volunteer team Graffiti Chasers, a unit of Albany Parks and Recreation’s Adopt-a-Park program.

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More people, more paint, more graffiti covered in Poirier’s mission to eliminate rogue paint. Poirier said people who catch him spending time and labor to cover tags usually have the same message: thank you.

“I have yet to meet anyone, young or old, who doesn’t appreciate us painting over the graffiti,” he said. “And it gives me warm and fuzzy feelings.”

Simon Richmond was with a group assigned to Bryant Park, painting a group of about two dozen tags found, by chance, under a railway bridge as the rain began to fall. He climbed a ladder to the hard-to-reach spray paint on the I-beams of the wood and steel structure.

A man sheltering from the rain said he had no interest in painting tags. He pointed his name, spelled out in popcorn on a concrete retaining wall he said he left to feed the animals.

“I don’t do graffiti,” he said. “I feed on birds.”

By the time the volunteers were finished, the balloon-like letters and strings of numbers sprayed in red, blue, purple and black were replaced with a coat of beige weatherproof paint.

Poirier has been hunting tags since 2019. The specifics of seemingly competing posts change as graffiti artists enter or exit the written exchange, up to five or six new tags in a week.

Poirier said he’s noticed a change in the amount of tags since he started tackling spray-painted signatures, initials, symbols and numbers with less showing up on fences, walls and utility poles. of Albany.

But he has lost track of which ones are newer or more prolific. And he’s not sure what most of them mean.

“I don’t pay attention,” he said. “I just paint on it.”

Adopt-a-Park coordinator Jill Van Buren said covering up graffiti is a natural choice for a group of volunteers who are already in parks offering their talents to plant pollinator-friendly gardens, pick up litter or eliminate invasive and out-of-control species.

“We are the eyes on the parks, Van Buren said.

She said city workers tackle park projects that require major planning or construction or anything that requires “heavy work” — bureaucratic, physical or otherwise. But there’s not enough budget and therefore not enough paid time to take care of every little need in each of Albany’s 36 parks.

“The parks just weren’t maintained the way they should be,” Van Buren said.

She said former parks superintendent Ed Hodney was more than willing to hire volunteers when she offered it.

“He said, ‘Jill, I’ve waited 10 years for someone to do this,'” Van Buren said.

She has now adopted 27 parks. Adoptees seem to appreciate an officially sanctioned chance to improve their local green space, but with a no-pressure approach to how those spaces need to be improved.

Van Buren said adopters show up when they can, with whatever skills they have. Linn-Benton Community College supports Waverly Park. Oregon State University’s forestry and sustainability courses have worked elsewhere in the park system, bringing an expert eye for ecology.

“When we find someone with knowledge, we put them to work,” Van Buren said.

Knowing Poirier is hard work, she said.

“He’s a retired Navy veteran who needed something to do,” Van Buren said. “So I filled all his leisure hours for him.”

Alex Powers (he/him) covers business, environment and health for Mid-Valley Media. Call 541-812-6116 or email [email protected]

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