A few vulgar, silly rhymes, a few expletives, a few initials--all were once spray-painted underneath the Hamilton Street bridge along the Santa Ana River trail.
But now the wall is adorned by a huge mural of a roller-blader stopping on a dime, with sun and waves in the background, thanks to 20 art students from Century High School in Santa Ana who felt like burning off a little artistic energy.
Their art teacher, Ross McElfresh, sketched the mural and helped paint it over three consecutive Saturdays. A ceremony was held last week to celebrate its completion under Operation Clean Slate.
The county Environmental Management Agency provided bright orange traffic cones to forewarn bikers that artists were at work, and sandbags to keep the river from reaching the precious paint during high tides.
Lily Hoang, 15, a sophomore, said the work was her way of helping the community. Rhonda Espinosa, 16, a junior, said she took up the brush because she liked the idea that it was a group working toward a common good.
Mike Howard, a math teacher at Orange County Juvenile Hall, started Operation Clean Slate, a growing program to clean up graffiti and replace it with murals.
The year-old program is intended to impress upon students all over the county that art can be an alternative to graffiti.
Ken Stokesberry, coordinator of student activities at Century High, thought the message might be sinking in.
"After we finished the mural we forgot about the paint and brushes and left them out. And you know what? When we came back, nobody had touched it or painted over it or ruined it. Isn't that great?"