LINCOLN, Maine — In case you missed it: The Painted Rock has been scraped down and totally repainted, possibly for the first time in decades.
The large boulder on the eastbound side of Route 6 near the Lee town line has acted as an informal community bulletin board and memorial for at least 60 years. As of Monday night, the Painted Rock was spraypainted green, maroon and blue — the colors of Penobscot Valley High School and Mattanawcook and Lee academies, respectively — with “Congrats Class of 2016” and a graduation cap spraypainted white on its broad front.
“L.A.,” “M.A.” and “P.V.H.S.” are spraypainted in blue, maroon and green on its much narrower westbound side, which is painted white.
The new design drew a rave review from Lincoln Town Manager Ron Weatherbee and the owner of the land on which the rock resides, Scott Gardner.
“It’s excellent,” Weatherbee said Tuesday. “There have been some before that were very good and some that were less than desirable. I think this is great for this time of year. We have a lot of kids from the three schools that are very good friends and do a lot of things together. This reflects that.”
“I think it is very classy of area kids to get together like this. It just shows you how tight-knit the communities are,” said Gardner, vice president of a Lincoln-based logging and trucking business, WT Gardner and Sons Inc. “They cleaned it up really nice. I thought it was pretty touching.”
Exactly how the new design came together is somewhat mysterious, and intentionally so. Technically, defacing the rock can be considered criminal mischief, which is typically a Class D crime punishable with up to a year incarceration and a $2,000 fine.
Not that its owner would be likely to press charges.
“I remember painting it myself when I was in high school,” said Gardner, a 51-year-old graduate of the Mattanawcook Academy of Lincoln Class of 1982.
Although some of the graffiti painted on the rock has been vulgar on occasion and oblique on others — someone once wrote “Minecraft is the best game ever!” on it — messages left there, presumably by area teens or 20-somethings, have generally been respectful or at worst, boisterous, Weatherbee said. War heroes, high school classmates lost to illness or tragedy, and top performing arts and sports teams are among the rock’s typical subject matter.
“It can change daily. It can change monthly, and it always has some sort of public service message on it,” said Ruth Birtz, Lincoln’s economic development director. “I don’t know that I have ever seen anybody painting the rock, but it always changes.”
“It is a way for kids to express themselves without fear of repercussions and it keeps them from painting places that should be left alone,” Weatherbee said. “Their artwork is displayed, their comments are there. It is nice that it is right there on a main road.”
The new paint job apparently began with someone removing the many, many layers of old paint on it around Memorial Day weekend, Birtz said.
“It was a mess. It looked like somebody had totally randomly threw paint at it,” Birtz said.
A beloved kind of monument, the Rock’s repainting set off a barrage of chatter on social media, including Facebook. Several teens and young adults complained that the stripping down of paint was disrespectful to the previous decades of memorials and should never have happened.
“They were appalled that someone would mess up the Painted Rock,” Birtz said.
Others said the paint removal and repainting occurred almost accidentally. The removal was only slight at first, then increased as someone strove to include the lower layers into a design honoring a recently deceased father, who had himself painted the rock when he was a high schooler.
Pictures found online show the rock apparently in mid-paint peel, with a sloppy rainbow of colors illegibly arrayed and in peelings on the ground, and then with an interim design, solid black with #Respect the rock! spraypainted white across it.
The latest design, Weatherbee said, carries a lesson everyone in the Lincoln Lakes region could learn from.
“They have shown the three schools working together. That is something we could all take note of, that they are all working together,” Weatherbee said. “Maybe we all need to.”