RED WING, Minn. — The rocks of an eastern Minnesota bluff have been painted with graduation announcements, marriage proposals and tributes to the dead since the late 1950s.
But Red Wing is considering ending the tradition after a recent string of resident complaints about controversial graffiti, including calls to “Dump Trump.”
The Red Wing City Council is deciding whether to put the graffiti policy at Barn Bluff before voters after a survey showed residents’ unhappiness with the city’s largest canvas. The city currently doesn’t enforce its rules banning the defacement of public property when it comes to Barn Bluff unless a resident complains.
Resident Bill Hanisch told council members that he and his 13-year-old son recently painted a Barn Bluff tribute to a local coach who died in November of a rare form of cancer, the Star Tribune reported . Hanisch said the tradition is safe and a part of Red Wing’s rich history, but many disagree.
A city-funded survey conducted last year found that 49 percent of 400 residents believe painting Barn Bluff should never be allowed.
Brian Peterson, Red Wing’s special projects manager, said city employees are concerned about people getting injured while painting or covering up graffiti, as well as the time and cost of doing so. The city is responsible for cleaning up Barn Bluff graffiti if it contains a political message or obscenities.
Hanisch said residents usually take it upon themselves to paint over controversial messages. He helped turn a red-white-and-blue Russian flag painted on Barn Bluff into a thin blue line to denote respect for the police.
Council Member John Becker said, “the first time somebody breaks a neck or does something horribly inappropriate, we’re going to have to live with it because we can’t get up there (to cover it up) before it’s on social media.”
Other residents have questioned the city’s survey, saying a referendum is the only way to get an honest opinion from everyone in town.
Peterson said he’ll know whether a referendum will be held in the coming weeks.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com