‘Graffiti zone’ no more than creative tagging

NANAIMO - Stencils authorizing tunnel as graffiti zone a hoax.

A little creative work by graffiti taggers isn’t earning any fans at the City of Nanaimo.

Along with the usual markings, characters, paintings and signature initials, the tunnel along the Parkway Trail south of Mostar Road has a new piece of work.

Stenciled on the ground at each entrance and on the tunnel’s north wall is ‘Authorized Graffiti Area – City of Nanaimo’.

But the only paint the city will be applying to the tunnel is to cover up the graffiti, especially the three stencils.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen anything like that,” said Brian Denbigh, city manager of roads and traffic services and chairman of the Nanaimo Graffiti Taskforce. “It’s not ours. The city doesn’t condone graffiti of any kind.”

Graffiti in the tunnel destroyed a mural painted on the walls, a similar fate to murals painted in tunnels underneath the Island Highway at Brooks Landing and Waddington Road.

Denbigh said highly-visible murals and paintings, such as the ones Nanaimo artist Jeff King created for city electrical boxes, are usually left alone, but areas like tunnels, that are hidden, are tagged on a regular basis.

“There appears to be some respect for artwork between the taggers and artists,” he said. “But something like a tunnel, you’ll see one tag show up and then more pop up soon after that.”

Programs for authorized graffiti sites have been tried in several cities around the province including Victoria and Vancouver, but Denbigh said there are no plans for a site in Nanaimo.

“What they find is over a period of time, taggers start to hit the infrastructure when they’re coming into and leaving the graffiti zone,” he said. “It seems to create more of a problem.”

Along with the cost of removing the tags, Denbigh said graffiti hurts a community in a number of ways.

“It gives the city an image that there is no control,” he said. “It brings down property values, businesses don’t want to operate in an area where there’s a lot of graffiti and people shy away from shopping in those areas because they might think it’s gang related.

“Nanaimo doesn’t have any gang-related graffiti, but the image is there.”

The Parkway trail falls under the responsibility of parks, recreation and culture, and staff will be removing  the signs as soon as possible.

“They might not be removing all the graffiti, but they’re definitely going to be covering up the stencils,” said Denbigh. “They’ll probably look after the rest during regular maintenance.”