Iconic Boise landmark defaced by vandals, evidence of illegal fire found

The base of the Table Rock cross is now tagged with graffiti. Vandalism has been an ongoing problem at the popular hiking area.
The base of the Table Rock cross is now tagged with graffiti. Vandalism has been an ongoing problem at the popular hiking area.

It's human nature to want to leave your mark for posterity — but it's a crime when you spray paint and trash local landmarks.

A Table Rock interpretive sign was heavily damaged in March and the base of the 60-foot steel cross was tagged. The popular hiking destination in the Boise Foothills can also be easily accessed by car, and the view is worth the trip.

Graffiti has been a problem at the site for decades.

"It's an ongoing struggle," said Amber Beierle, a spokeswoman for the Idaho State Historical Society. "This is something that happens every spring, when the weather is nicer."

The Idaho State Historical Society maintains the grounds at Table Rock. The cross itself is owned and maintained by a private corporation, Table Rock Cross of the Idaho Jaycees, Inc.

A member of the group's board tries to keep an eye on the cross. When it's tagged, he paints over it as soon as possible. The vandalism is frustrating for the cross's keepers — and others. A member of the Barber Valley Neighborhood Association alerted neighbors to new damage Thursday in the association's Facebook group.

"It shows the stupidity of some people," said Keith Gabriel, president of the board of Table Rock Cross of the Idaho Jaycees. "Some people talk about diversity — but as long as it's the way you think but not the way other people think. It's just a fact of life. "

The rocks below the cross are covered with spray paint of all colors. Visitors have carved or painted their names on the rocks; some pictures and crude words have also been left there. Millions of glass shards glisten on the pathways around the rocks under the cross — remnants of broken bottles — and on Thursday afternoon there was a small pile of charred wood, evidence of an illegal fire.

"There is no time of the year that creating a fire in the foothills is OK," said Char Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Boise Fire Department. "Open burning is never allowed there."

Bierele said that powerwashing the graffiti off many of the rocks below the cross isn’t an option because the sandstone is too soft, and it crumbles. Also, there are limitations due to the difficult-to-access location and cost of equipment.

Fire is a threat yearround in the Foothills but the threat peaks in the summer, when vegetation is fully grown and dry and recreational use is greatest, Jackson said. Anyone who starts a fire in the Foothills could be held responsible for the cost of fighting it.

There have been efforts in recent years to curb the vandalism at Table Rock. In 2015, The Rotary Club of Boise East worked with the Idaho State Historical Society to enhance the site. The club installed "anti-graffiti" benches and interpretive signs.

Local muralists with Sector 17 painted numerous small outbuildings at the site.

The Table Rock cross was built in 1956 by the Boise Jaycees, a group that no longer exists. Gabriel said there was a major renovation of the cross about five years ago. It was repainted (white) and LED lights were installed.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413