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Clean Ticket Company
September 11, 2017
#42-253 a2z

Lasers used to zap away Starved Rock graffiti

Steve Stout

Pinpoint laser technology was used by a Forest Park restoration company Tuesday morning to remove graffiti off of canyon walls at Starved Rock State Park.

Bartosz Dajnowski and his mother, Hanna Dajnowski, owners and operators of Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio, Inc., volunteered their time to remove graffiti at Council Overhang — a popular hiking destination at the park.

Using a laser-generating machine of his own creation, Bartosz said he found out about the state park graffiti problem from a fellow staff member vacationing in Europe last week.

"He saw the Starved Rock situation online and he contacted me about it,' said Dajnowski, while he set up his equipment deep inside the park. "I was appalled and I knew something had to be done and we have the expertise and the most precise cleaning equipment to do it. The images were very disturbing."

Hanna said her family has many fond memories of Starved Rock.

"We have property at Lake Thunderbird (in Putnam County) and for years we have stopped here to enjoy the park on several occasions," she said. "I am so glad we can help."

Simplifying the process, Bartosz said the beauty of using a laser to remove such graffiti is that it does not damage the surface.

"What happens is that the laser excites the markings/paint, which is burnt off by millions of nano-second pulses that leaves whatever underneath untouched."

As Bartosz worked the heavy laser device against the markings, they disappeared like he was using an eraser.  However, the effective process, he admitted, is very work-intensive and the device heavy to hold for long periods of time.

Bartosz said, although the process was a dangerous one, safety for him and others is paramount for his company when working with lasers. The area around the park landmark was closed to hikers Tuesday and those watching the slow procedure had to wear protective goggles.

The time and services were donated by the company. Bartosz estimated if his company was hired by the state to perform the work, it would be charged $2,000 to $3,000 per day.

"This is a tremendous gift for the park," said Starved Rock Superintendent Kerry Novak. "It is just wonderful to have these people volunteer for this work."

Ottawa resident and Starved Rock volunteer, Kendall Cramer originally saw the vandalism and took a image to share online with friends and others. A Chicago television news crew also reported on the vandalism, along with Starved Rock area media outlets.

“I thought that it was certainly large and I had never seen anything like that or that large before,” Cramer said last week. “It angered me, I was heartbroken and wondered why they did that.”

Cramer said the vandalism took up around 100 feet of the wall and was made up of people’s names and various symbols, including hearts.

Cramer, who went out to the park Monday to see the process for himself, told The Times: "I'm extremely pleased with the response that the photos of Council Overhang has generated. It's quite amazing the technology the team is using to remove the graffiti utilized lasers that will not further damage the sandstone. I'm grateful for the team of volunteers that have volunteered their time and efforts to keep our park beautiful."

He also was impressed the conservation company will be heading to Washington, D.C. later this week to do work on the Supreme Court building.

Working his way across the Council Overhang's sandstone walls, Bartosz said, "I will never understand why some people would do this. Why mark this beautiful spot? But fortunately, we have the technology to remove it."

He said, "If you don't remove the graffiti as soon as possible — leaving it will encourage others to add their names or symbols to the walls."

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