Last week, bright red swastikas were spray-painted onto a cluster of large boulders along Georgia’s Wild and Scenic Chattooga River Trail, a federally protected Wild and Scenic River treasured by paddlers, anglers, and hikers.
The persons responsible for painting the swastikas have not been found, but the Rabun County Sheriff’s Department is working on the case.
Ranger Ryan Foote, district ranger of the Chattooga River, said a local notified him about the defaced boulders by Sandy Ford, a popular camping and swimming spot.
“[The river] is one of our heaviest recreational areas that we manage,” he said. “It’s one of the jewels we have out there. There’s a lot of history too, with the role that river has provided to the communities.”
The Chattooga is a National Wild and Scenic River, harboring the highest form of federal protection. It’s a popular whitewater rafting and paddling spot, and was made famous in the 1970s by the book and movie, Deliverance.
“Everyone in the community is pretty upset,” he said. “It’s…a hate symbol.”
Brown said he thinks the culprit will be found soon.
“I think [the police] know roughly who did it,” he said. “It’s a small town.”
Foote said it took his team a week to remove the graffiti because they had to order Elephant Snot, a graffiti removal solution, and wait for it to arrive.
“As soon as we got that product, I sent two of my staff out there with a water truck and we cleaned that off,” he said.
Based on the reactions of the public, the vandalism does not reflect on the community, he said.
“Graffiti of this nature is not common,” Foote said. “This is the first I’ve seen of [swastika] graffiti.”
Brown said it’s unfortunate that one person can taint a place’s reputation, ruining it for the vast majority.
“The reality is 99.9 percent of the people who live here…care deeply about the place and keeping it as beautiful and welcoming as possible,” Brown said.
Foote said he wouldn’t have seen the swastika vandalism if the local hadn’t contacted him—he only has so many eyes and ears on his team.
“What allows us as an agency to respond to this is being notified by the public,” he said.