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Conservators restore Joshua Tree landmark that became riddled with graffiti

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JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, California — After a 1 ½ year effort, conservators have restored a popular hiking spot in Joshua Tree National Park that became riddled with graffiti.

Barker Dam was put off limits several years ago after vandals carved their names into the cement of the historic landmark, built by Old West ranchers for water storage.

Park officials said the graffiti started with just a few markings, but quickly spread.

PHOTO: Ranger Jay Theuer shows how the graffiti had been painted over on Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park, Thursday, April 23, 2015, where the Dam is back to it's original look after graffiti that had disfigured it for some time was painted over. The Dam was put off limits several years ago after vandals carved their names into the cement of the historic landmark, built by Old West ranchers for water storage. The work was done by University of New Mexico conservators. (Kurt Miller/The Press-Enterprise via AP)
Ranger Jay Theuer shows how the graffiti had been painted over on Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park, Thursday, April 23, 2015, where the Dam is back to it's original look after graffiti that had disfigured it for some time was painted over. The Dam was put off limits several years ago after vandals carved their names into the cement of the historic landmark, built by Old West ranchers for water storage. The work was done by University of New Mexico conservators. (Kurt Miller/The Press-Enterprise via AP)

To get rid of the blight, a team of conservators led by historic preservation expert Angelyn Bass painstakingly painted over the graffiti to restore the original look of the 19-foot-high dam.

"We had to use paints to simulate both the color and texture of the surrounding surface," she said. "With so much of the wall affected, it was challenging to achieve a natural appearance."

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports (http://bit.ly/1DLyff7) the project cost $46,000, while conservators donated $33,000 in work hours to carry it out.

Jay Theuer, the park's chief of cultural resources, said officials plan to post signs and add volunteers to increase visitors' awareness of the growing graffiti problem.

"At least once or twice a week we get reports of graffiti in different areas," he said.

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PHOTO: Ranger Jay Theuer stands at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park, Thursday, April 23, 2015, where all of the graffiti has been painted over. The Dam is back to it's original look after the covering over of graffiti that had disfigured it for some time. The Dam was put off limits several years ago after vandals carved their names into the cement of the historic landmark, built by Old West ranchers for water storage. The work was done by University of New Mexico conservators. (Kurt Miller/The Press-Enterprise via AP)
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