Despite graffiti and trash, leave the Big C alone

Jake Gong/HIGHLANDER
Jake Gong/HIGHLANDER

Recently, Dr. Marek Chrobak of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering launched a petition to remove the Big C from the side of Box Springs Mountain, due to the broken bottles, graffiti and other trash that litter the trail. The C’s state of disrepair has gotten so bad that if you zoom in on the C on Google Earth, you can see the giant penis that someone tagged on it. While it’s a shame that some students have trashed it for the sake of being rebellious, I don’t believe that is a reason to move or remove the C, because frankly, it has been there too long and is an important landmark for the university.

Moving or removing the C, itself, doesn’t solve the problem. If you put it higher up the mountain, it will just leave a longer trail of trash and tagging in its wake. It will be a destination, regardless of its position. Plus, moving a 132’x70’ concrete letter would be a logistical nightmare.

The first step would be to break it up into sizeable chunks that can be moved, then large trucks that can handle the terrain would have to move in to take the pieces up or down the hill. The movement of trucks and the spread of 60-year-old paint and concrete dust would cause serious disruption to the habitats of subterranean mammals and reptiles, doing more harm than good. Getting rid of the C does not aid in preserving the natural environment and dismantling the C magnifies the problem in a single afternoon, leaving a lasting impression on the area that will take time to recover.

The C itself might not even be the problem.

Has anyone who wants to take down the C ever considered that maybe it’s the trail itself? We are fortunate to be at a university far enough from a dense urban center, like Los Angeles, that we have mountain hiking trails just five minutes away from some of the on-campus housing. The views by day are incredible and must be even more spectacular at night when all of the debauchery is going on, as drinking and tagging on a busy trail in broad daylight would be tough to do without getting caught.

The city of Los Angeles has been dealing with similar problems in their parks for years, whether it’s graffiti or used condoms littering trails, and they haven’t gone to such lengths as to remove historic structures. They have instead taken measures to protect the trails from nighttime vandals.

What is missing, however, is accountability.

Why put the university, city or county through the expense of removing the C when the culprits have identified themselves on the C and surrounding stones? I have known a few gangbangers in my day, and none of them tagged in Greek. Rather than take down the C, campus police should  escort the guilty frats and sororities back up the hill on a Saturday morning, with buckets, soap, brushes, rollers and yellow paint to clean up their own messes.

We also have 21,000 students on campus. There are bound to be a few that would be willing to join a “Friends of the Big C Trail” club on campus, especially if it was broken up into subgroups by major, with a faculty or staff member from individual department leading them. An afternoon of bonding over community service would be a great way to bring students and professors together.

Aside from all of this, there needs to be enforcement. That portion of Box Springs Mountain is a part of the University of California Natural Reserve System and needs to be treated as such. If the trail is going to be made open to the public, then it needs to be maintained like a public park, with regular clean-ups and patrols. I’m not saying that the university needs to hire a ranger to sit on the hill, in a uniform with binoculars, but before such drastic measures as removing the C are suggested, there should at the very least be a few strategically placed trash cans in the affected area. You know … baby steps.

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