Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Removal of Orange Paint on Trees...

Two years ago, some marking paint specifically designed for race events was ordered and used to mark the race course at Lake Ahquabi.  Yes, the product works on pavement, grass, gravel, etc... to help point out turns and obstacles.  I had used a similar type of marking chalk the first few years of The Mullet which had actually washed away with one or two rains.  This new brand, from a different source, made the same claims of washing away just like the old brand.

The mistake was made of not test sampling the product.  The mistake continued by placing it on trees solely based on the product being touted by the company that it was something that easily washes off in the rain and was safe to use on trees.  This is the only reason it was used and in retrospect, the worst possible solution to course marking.  Not to worry, I am more than well aware this was a major mistake.  It will never happen again from me, that's for sure.

As everyone knows who has visited the park and been out on the trails hiking or biking, the rain did not wash all of this product away (except on the pavement, grass, and gravel).  The orange markings on trees have been a major problem and eye sore that desperately needed a solution.  I spoke with somebody this year from the Warren County Conservation board who said they had used the same product for an event and had the same problem requiring them to use a water pressure washer to remove the marking paint.  How was I going to get a pressure washer out on the trails?  And would that really be safe for the trees?

Scrubbing with a soft bristle brush and water helped a little, but didn't remove much of it.  So the orange marks remained drawing plenty of ire and frustration from everyone.  My frustration grew with each subsequent rain, week, month, and finally it has now been two full years without seeing much progress of the product disappearing on the trees.  Odd that it washed totally away on several of the trees or stumps that were more exposed to sun and rain, but didn't budge at all on others.

What was needed?  A wire brush?  A bark colored cover?  More rain?  Well, finally after a nice tip from trail user Angie Fry Boyens who had first suggested a graffiti removal product that was supposed to be safe for trees (I've heard that before!!!!), came her suggestion of asking me if I had tried using mud to remove the paint?  Mud?  Hmmmm....

No, I had not tried mud.  Reading online I discovered that mud does not harm the tree, it will stain and blend in with the bark in a natural manner, and it will draw the paint out of the bark.  Really?  Mud?

The recipe I read in an online discussion forum dating from 2005 about safe paint removal from trees was this:
"Put 2 or 3 inches of soil in a bucket and add water and stir. Paint this over the affected area. Let mud dry on the bark. Then, let the rain wash off mud or rinse with hose. You don't have to remove all the mud. The mud will stain the trunk a natural color and blend in the affected area with the rest of the trunk. Following up with another application and or light use of a wire brush should remove the paint." 
So I spoke with Park Ranger Craig Oberbroeckling to see if was okay to give it a try.  Yesterday, was the first application on many of the offending orange paint markings using lake water, dirt, and a soft bristle brush to scrub the markings on the tree bark because I knew that some rain was due today.  Bob Matthews came out and joined me as we covered - with our mud - the markings until we ran out of daylight.  We have a few more trees to treat today and tomorrow, but we got a lot of them yesterday with the first application.  
I have to say, the initial results look rather fantastic after just one application.  But I am curious how the mud responds to the rain today.  Either way, today and tomorrow we will finish treating all offending marks and if the rain washes away treatment number one, we will be able to view how well the mud worked and begin the second application.  Ice cream pails in hand.  Soft bristle brushes in hand.  Lake water in pails.  Dirt in pails.  Mixing mud pie to remove the offending markings from all trees and posts.  That's what you will see me doing this week (and beyond if needed).  Operation remove orange from Lake Ahquabi State Park is underway... 
Had I known about this possible solution, I would have been on it two years ago - trust me.

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