Vandals defaced a southern Utah recreation hot spot. Here’s what the consequences could be.

The owners of Rainbow Canyon, which was spray painted, are considering blocking public access.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Graffiti is seen along a trail at Rainbow Canyon in Ivins, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Ivins • Residents of east Ivins may no longer be able to access one of the southwest Utah city’s most bucolic desert washes after vandals covered much of the rock formations with blue, red and purple spray paint.

One or more vandals struck some time in late April, coating the slick rock and sandstone with initials, crude pictures and vulgar racial and sexual expletives, according to Santa Clara-Ivins Police Department officials and neighbors living near the area.

Often dubbed by locals as Rainbow Canyon, the picturesque wash is centrally located on 113 acres at 400 South and Puerto Drive that Rize Capital is developing into a controversial resort called The Retreat that includes luxury residential homes and short-term condominium rentals. Construction is expected to begin this summer.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Graffiti is seen along a trail at Rainbow Canyon in Ivins, Monday, May 6, 2024.

“The reason this graffiti is such a big deal is this area is some of the last pristine desert in Ivins,” said resident Mike Cook, a member of Defenders of Greater Ivins (DOGI), a group that has opposed the development and is fighting to preserve the area that is popular with hikers, cyclists and dog walkers.

As a result of the vandalism, Rize officials are considering shutting down public access to much of the recreation hot spot by fencing off most of the area and placing no trespassing signs.

“Actions have consequences,” said Santa Clara-Ivins police spokesman, Lt. Jaron Studley. “It took these individuals a few moments to do what they did and to ruin what could have been a decent relationship with the property owner that [would allow people] to recreate on the land until it was developed. But it looks like that opportunity is gone.”

Cook was walking his dog on April 24 when he spotted some of the graffiti and went over to investigate and notified police when he saw the extent of the damage.

“There’s a couple of places where this kind of damage will never go away,” he said. “Even if it is given a really good cleaning, some of this rock will never be the same.”

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) Graffiti is seen along a trail at Rainbow Canyon in Ivins, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Police suspect the vandals are young people who live somewhere nearby. To date, investigators have combed the area and school resource officers at nearby schools have tried to track down the vandals to no avail. The department’s gang task force liaison, Detective Braden Ray, has also met with little success.

Studley said the vandalism doesn’t appear to be gang-related and is not indicative of a wider problem in the area. “We don’t necessarily have graffiti problems in our little community, which is pretty nice,” he said, adding the incident is an outlier from the kind of calls Ivins officers normally receive.

Cook and other DOGI members have volunteered to clean up the area. However, officials with Rize have opted instead to pay SERVPRO of St. George nearly $3,000 to rehabilitate the recreation site. The cleanup is expected to get underway Thursday.

(Mark Eddington | The Salt Lake Tribune) A public notice is written after graffiti was reported along a trail at Rainbow Canyon in Ivins, Monday, May 6, 2024.

Relations between DOGI and Rize have been strained after the ad hoc group appealed the Ivins City Council’s decision in 2022 to approve Rize’s development. DOGI argued council members had failed to follow proper procedure. Last July, 5th District Court Judge Keith Barnes ruled in the city’s favor. DOGI has appealed that decision to the Utah Court of Appeals.

Jerry Miyahara, chief operating officer of Rize Capital, said the company might decide to close all the 113 acres to the public except for the actual wash area where the vandalism took place during construction. Ivins must give final plat approval before construction on The Retreat can begin.