Community rallies to clean up and protect historic Dinosaur Rock from graffiti

Would you deface a monument some 200 million years old?

Sadly, to a good number of Lebanon County youth, the answer to that might depend simply on the opportunity.

Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) officials have stepped up enforcement efforts at Dinosaur Rock, located on State Game Lands 145 in South Londonderry Township. Between June 2023 and January 2024, they issued 17 citations and approximately $5,000 in fines to vandals of this natural landmark.

Violators were aged between 17-21 and Sunday between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. was the most common time and day of the infractions – and almost all of them took place in June and July.

The game commission was able to issue these citations thanks to trail cameras installed at the site last year as well as routine warden patrols. The cameras were installed after last year’s cleanup effort.

“After the clean up and a few groups being cited the activity on camera really decreased dramatically,” said Sgt. Derek Spitler in an email to volunteers. “Unfortunately, it picked back up over winter and there were a few groups or people that went undetected and covered a large area of the rocks.”

With only four wardens covering Dauphin, Lebanon, and northern Lancaster counties, patrol time at the rocks decreases once hunting season starts and cameras need to be redeployed for other investigations.

The game commission plans to continue utilizing the cameras when possible and maintaining a routine patrol of the area.

Sgt. Spitler told LebTown in an interview last week that anyone who observes vandalism occurring at Dinosaur Rock, or other game lands for that matter, should call the PGC hotlines at 1-833-PGC-HUNT or 1-833-PGC-WILD. Spitler recommended against members of the public attempting to intervene themselves. PGC has wardens on-call 24/7, in addition to regular officer duty hours. Spitler also noted that the trail cameras have real-time connectivity to the PGC through cell modems, and so sometimes officers are able to get there while the rocks are still being actively vandalized. Spitler also said that its a violation to even carry spray paint on game lands.

Spitler said that the volunteer activity and enforcement measures seem to have been effective in deterring vandalism at the site, with the PGC seeing the least amount of graffiti at Dinosaur Rocks in 2023 for many years. He said that the game commission will continue these enforcement details and extra patrol time there, and also work with the commission’s land management crews to keep the rocks clean. “I noticed if you let the graffiti start building, it’s just an open invitation to keep doing it,” said Spitler.

In the meantime, parents in that part of the county might want to remind their teens this summer: It’s okay to enjoy the wonder of Dinosaur Rock, but leave the spray paint at home and consider sharing your experience with a post to social media instead.

Local groups are now organizing for the annual cleanup of Dinosaur Rock, and looking for more volunteers.

The Lebanon Valley Conservancy, in conjunction with PGC, has organized a cleaning effort for Saturday, June 22, at 9 a.m. To participate, all you need to do is show up at the parking area, sign a release form, and get to work. Light refreshments will be served, with a post-cleanup respite (along with ice cream treats) at Colebrook Crossing to follow.

Justin Clark, wildlife habitat manager with the PGC’s southeast region and co-organizer of the cleanup effort, said that last year, approximately 20-25 volunteers came out. That turned out to be a great number, he said, as it meant that volunteers weren’t stepping over each other while working on their respective cleanup jobs.

A search of Lebanon Daily News archives reveals that the first recorded reference to “Dinosaur Rock” took place in November 1954. The name is appropriate for more than just the rock’s physical appearance, as the formation dates back to the early Jurassic period, when it formed as a molten injection that cut through the Triassic sedimentary rocks which were there at the time. Those rocks have long been eroded away, but left behind the diabase formation, standing about 15 feet off the forest floor.

“I think creating public awareness and a sense of ownership over these important landmarks and high use areas goes a long way in a) dissuading any graffiti in the future and also b) creating more sets of eyes that care about the preservation of this year that help us patrol for these illegal activities,” said Clark.

State Rep. Tom Jones (R-98) will again be helping out with the cleanup effort this year.

“I have known Dinosaur Rock for as long as I can remember, and when I became aware of the graffiti problem, it was sad to see just how much vandalism had taken that place,” he said in an email to LebTown. Rep. Jones said he was happy to work with members of the community and the Game Commission to be good stewards of the environment and take care of our local blessings.

Jones’ district includes South Annville Township, South Londonderry Township, and Mount Gretna Borough.

“I’m also not afraid to get dirty and I look forward to helping out again on June 22 with cleanup and power washing off the graffiti that has reappeared,” said Jones. “It is my hope that ongoing enforcement will send a clear message to vandals that breaking the law will not be tolerated in our community.”

Also helping out will be J.V. Bennett and other volunteers from South Londonderry Township Area Historical Society.

“Dinosaur Rock falls into the Society’s mission as a site of natural history and beauty, and as a site of local cultural importance enjoyed by members of the community,” said Bennett.

Bennett said that while he can appreciate graffiti as an art form, Dinosaur Rock is the wrong place for it.

“So, we will keep cleaning it as long as we have to,” said Bennett. “Folks with an itchy spay paint finger should be aware the there is video surveillance and the South Londonderry Police and the Game Commission Wardens have been making arrests.”

“There are also tales of Dinosaur Rock coming to life and eating the occasional graffitist. Ok, maybe not, but the first two are definitely a thing.”

General Construction Management president Steve Blount will be bringing three power washers to assist in the cleaning effort, and also helped arrange the collaboration with local ice cream favorite Colebrook Crossing (1550 Mount Wilson Road), which had been a client of his firm’s for the revitalization of their digs at the former Twin Kiss in Colebrook.

“For as long as I can remember Dinosaur Rock has been a unique place to visit and climb around on,” said Blount. “Nestled back in the woods in a quiet natural setting seeing the wonder of the boulders stack on top of each other giving the indisputable replica of a dinosaur’s head leaves one in amazement on how that formation has happened.”

Blount said that the vandalism of foul language graffiti is disheartening and takes away a treasured outing from families who won’t go there because of the destruction that’s occurred.

“To be able to help clean it up for the community to enjoy again as I once did is gratifying and the right thing to do,” said Blount.

PGC officials will be providing safety equipment such as gloves, suits, and eye protection, and also cleaning materials such as water sources and “Elephant Snot,” a proprietary solution for removing graffiti from porous surfaces. The formula is super effective for removing graffiti and retails for about $100 per gallon.

Volunteers for the cleanup on June 22 should wear sturdy, closed-toe footwear (rubber boots recommended), and optionally bring along gas-powered pressure washers. The pressure washers are helpful, Clark said, because the game commission’s fire equipment provides plenty of volume as far as water goes, but not quite so much in the pressure department.

Clark added that the PGC really appreciates the volunteer efforts, because it has the equipment to be able to facilitate these types of projects, but manpower is often the limiting factor.

“Getting volunteers to help labor and just put bodies on the issue really helps us to be able to make progress on this, because we just have so many other responsibilities as far as habitat goes and general upkeep of all the different game lands that we work on,” said Clark.

Anyone with questions about the cleanup can contact Courtney Reimann, land protection director at The Lebanon Valley Conservancy, by emailing courtney.reimann@tlvc.org.

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