Local woman keeps family tradition by restoring Big G
by Laura Haley
Contributing Writer
Jun 19, 2014 | 6145 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Moab residents Sommer Stewart and Andrew McMillan restore the block letter G painted on the cliff north of Moab after vandals painted over the letter in mid-May. Photo courtesy of Sommer Stewart
Moab residents Sommer Stewart and Andrew McMillan restore the block letter G painted on the cliff north of Moab after vandals painted over the letter in mid-May. Photo courtesy of Sommer Stewart
Last month, Moab residents awoke to find that someone had vandalized the 14-foot tall white G painted on a cliff on the north end of town. White paint was used to turn the G into an O.

The G, originally painted in 1930 by the Grand County High School graduating class, has been defaced several times over the years. In 2000, when someone used brown and black spray paint to completely cover the letter, Dave Stewart took action and restored the block G.

“He took the initiative to get up there and do it,” Dave Stewart’s daughter Sommer Stewart said. “He’s very proud of his native roots.”

Despite growing up in Moab, Stewart said she didn’t do most of the outdoor activities that make the area so popular. After returning five years ago, she decided it was time to learn. One of her new activities was climbing.

“Dad said, ‘You’re a climber now, and if anything happens to the ‘G’, you have to fix it,’” she said.

She didn’t think much about the comment, but less than a month later, her dad called to tell her that someone had vandalized the landmark. She wasn’t sure how to go about restoring it until she overheard Mike Stimola, an employee at Raven’s Rim Zip Lines, talking about repairing the G.

Stimola explained that the property on which the G is located is owned by the Steen family, however, it is currently under lease by Raven’s Rim.

“It’s a common misconception that all of that land is BLM land,” he said.

Stewart told Stimola she had to repair the letter.

“I had to do it for my dad,” she told him.

Stimola agreed.

“We could have had someone come in and do it, but we had all the equipment,” Stimola said. “I figured we might as well fix it and know it had been done right.”

So Stewart and Stimola went up to scope out the damage and make a plan of action.

“We spent about five hours up there trying to come up with a list of everything we needed,” Steward said.

The next day, armed with a gas generator, a grinder and black and brown spray paint, they returned with Andrew McMillan to restore the letter to its former glory.

Due to the location of the G, Stimola said they had to rappel off the top of the cliff to be able to do any work.

“The paint was harder to take off than we thought it would be,” he said. “We had to take a grinder to it and scrape off the top layer.”

They were careful to use the grinder lightly, so they wouldn’t damage the rock underneath, he said. Then they used the spray paint to cover the rest of the white paint that had been added by the vandals. A storm was brewing, and the wind was picking up as the can of brown spray paint was lowered down to where Stewart waited.

“When I took the cap off, the nozzle broke,” she said. “We tried to use the nozzle from the black spray paint, but it wouldn’t work.”

With rain threatening to fall, she used the black paint to touch up the area as much as she could.

“We spent about five hours up there cleaning it up,” Stewart said, adding that as soon as they finished, it started to rain.

Even though it was hard work, Stimola said he is glad he was able to help.

“I know a lot of people take a lot of pride in it,” he said.

As for Stewart, she said her dad was thrilled to find out that she had restored the block G.

“Now it’s tradition that if anything happens to the G, it’s the Stewart family’s job to fix it,” she said.

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