On the Fern Ridge bike path, Parks and Open Space employee Amanda Eichman rolls a fresh coat of paint over graffiti sprawled across an underpass. As she works, she greets passing walkers or bikers with a smile and wave. She is well-practiced and covers several tags in a matter of minutes.
In the park system, graffiti detracts from the natural beauty of the park system, making visitors feel less welcome and unsafe. For years Parks did not have the resources to make a significant dent in this daily activity.
When the 2018 Parks and Recreation maintenance levy passed, funding was made available for a dedicated position assigned to graffiti removal from May through November. That's where Amanda comes in. This is Amanda's second year working on Illicit Activities Team doing graffiti cleanup.
"I feel lucky to have this job. My job takes me to the prettiest places in Eugene. I have people stop every day to tell me how appreciative they are or let me know about a new tag. It's great to be able to interact with the public in such a positive way."
But the hardest part of the job, Amanda says, happens to be the opposite side of the same coin. While most people express an outpouring of gratitude for her work, occasionally she hears someone shout to her that "we're just going to do it again tonight."
"Sometimes I've walked down a bike path, cleaning stuff up and when I turnaround the other way, it's already back. It's a weird feeling to know that whoever did it was watching me, we certainly passed each other at some point. They know who I am."
Though Amanda expects to be back at the same spot cleaning it later in the week, the Illicit Activities Team has found ways to slow down graffiti reoccurrence.
Amanda covers some of the most heavily tagged places in the park system with fresh coats of paint and stenciled designs to deter additional graffiti. "We've found that it's less appealing to paint over something. People seem to prefer a blank canvas, so the stencils slow it down."
Under the Owosso Bridge Amanda stenciled a scene with river ripples, swirling leaves and a flock of birds. "I try to use more natural looking colors and stencils," Amanda says. "I love fall so I'm really excited to start creating autumn scenes."
Previously, this spot under the Owosso Bridge needed her attention three times a week. With the stencils up, it's down to every couple weeks.
To report graffiti in the park system, go to eugene-or.gov/parkwatch and select "Graffiti in Park" under Type of Request.