It started as a means of free expression. But now there are concerns that flaking paint from Missoula's "graffiti wall" is actually damaging water quality in the adjacent Clark Fork River.

So for Earth Day, the Clark Fork Coalition is organizing a crew to help the City of Missoula clean off the layers and layers of paint that have built up over the past several years.

The wall at the south end of the California Street Bridge has been around for several years and gained a lot of public attention in 2007 when people used the location to share their grief after the murder of a homeless veteran, Forest Salcido. Salcido was murdered at the bridge when he was stomped to death and beaten by two young men, and the wall became a place to leave street art, flowers, and other items.

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Although sites on the Internet have claimed it's a "legal wall", the city has always taken the position the wall is on private property and not sanctioned for public art. Still, graffiti artists have continued to use the wall for years of expression.

However, now the City's Stormwater Utility says all that paint is flaking off and getting into the river with rain and snowmelt, impacting water quality. Crews have already collected more than 20 pounds of paint from the site.

The city and the Clark Fork Coalition have been making arrangements with the property owner, and on Saturday, April 22nd, a team of volunteers will undertake a cleanup. If you'd like to help and want to learn more about the project you can visit the Clark Fork Coalition's website.

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