Old Route 61 near Centralia Covered with Graffiti

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CENTRALIA -- Centralia in Columbia County has been virtually a ghost town since a mine fire chased nearly everyone out of the borough years ago and that includes the roads in the area of the borough.

So why are state police getting so bent out of shape over people spray painting graffiti on those empty roads?

Old Route 61 near Centralia has been closed to cars and trucks since the early 1990s. Since then, it's become a popular place for people to spray paint graffiti. But state police want people to think twice before they leave their "artwork."

There haven't been cars on this abandoned Route 61 near Centralia for more than 20 years, but there's still plenty of traffic: walkers and bikers who sometimes even leave their mark.

"It's a tourist attraction."

The road closed back in the 1990s because of the spreading mine fire underneath that's still burning. Now, the abandoned road is overrun with graffiti.

"For those who have ridden it with their bicycles like I have, you never know what you're going to find. Everybody that comes and visits, they all want to put their name and I was here," said Kulpmont resident Frank Lawski.

State police recently sent out a reminder to everyone that, in fact, it is illegal to spray on state property, including what's now known as the "graffiti highway."

State police told Newswatch 16 they are adding more patrols through the area adding that anyone they find doing it will be charged.

But people we spoke with say the graffiti gives the old road some new life.

"The graffiti definitely makes it a little eerie, a little mischievous, I guess," said Josh Willits.

He was on his way to his home near Philadelphia, but just had to make a stop to see what "the graffiti highway" was all about.

"Figured we'd stop by, heard a lot about it."

"I don't know if they should allow it, but it's kind of neat. It's kind of neat," said Brianna Lechner of Hatfield. "It's something to look at. It's a landmark for Ashland and Centralia and all that."

26 comments

  • Bk

    Is this a spin off of the state park incident with spray painting a rock? Why not crack down on the drugs in Ashland, mt Carmel, girardville, etc. oh that’s right the cops are after petty offenses. Don’t mind seeing needles where kids play…. As long as it’s not ur kidz

  • Chris

    Just another way for police to make easy money. I mean worried about graffiti!? Just heard stories about people getting robbed in Sunbury and Hazelton, had a road race incident last night when I tried to legally pass someone going under the speed limit and they are worried about some spray paint. How about we actually try to protect people. Good god.

  • Stirfry

    SERIOUSLY! an abandoned road of 20 years that’ll probably end up falling in over time, have the seen the voids/cracking, it’s only a matter of time! Their worried about spray paint? How about the lives of people they allow to walk and bicycle the road with the danger it could cave at any given time? Hummm that’s ok just don’t mark it up on your way down huh? What a pathetic waste of time and money, love when they show stuff like this on TV it just shows everyone what their really doing while robberies murders and drug deals are happening right I. Front of the faces!

  • Stacie

    Maybe State police should focus more on the amount of heroin/bath salt drugs and Overdoses going on in Schuylkill county rather than a spray painted highway. SMH. (and this is why I rarely come back home to visit). CLEAN up and CLEAN out the drug dealers/drugs killing our youth!!!

    • Stacie

      What is more illegal? DRUGS/DRUG DEALERS/DUI’s or SPRAY PAINTING A HIGHWAY. Get your priorities together!!!

  • B

    While I agree it is an abandoned highway and there are more serious problems to be taken are of, graffiti is illegal. People are also spraying the road signs and other things and not just the abandoned highway. Some see it as, “hey it is okay to paint this and it does not belong to me, so why not start painting other things as well.” The thing is, you should always have permission before changing anything that does not belong to you. For example, schools got permission from the city to paint the meters and I they look great and showcase young artists from the community. Just because something is abandoned does not give everyone the right to do whatever they want with it. However, as also stated it is a tourist attraction and most people like it. So instead of getting all bent out of shape over an abandoned highway or risking jail time by doing illegal acts…petition for the right to keep it as a land mark and tourist attraction. Bottom line is that it is illegal to deface public and private property that does not belong to you. Maybe had the few idiots that thought it was also cool to paint the road signs on the part of 61 that is still being used it may not have ever been an issue.

  • Jay

    Why now? Rt 61 has been covered with graffiti for years. It only adds to the character. All of the broken glass is the greater problem, but really who cares.

    • Green

      Probably because people some idiots started vandalizing the road signs. Before that I doubt the state police cared but because a few people took it too far everyone is going to suffer the consequences.

  • Mountain Man of Campbell's Ledge

    Funny it never mentioned an underground death void can open up at any time there.
    Not to mention gas pocket explosion.

  • Mike

    Go figure, the police go after people brushing up on their artistic skills, meanwhile drug dealers in nearby locustdale are installing swimming pools with bath-salts money!

  • Matt

    This is ridiculous! Your paying the starting wage 62k a yr(mind you I’m sure this is not rookie PSP investigating this) to investigate an abandoned road that’s being written on with spray paint! Seriously go investigate something worth while, like maybe the drug issue, child predators, just to name a few, and quit wasting tax dollars on BS. And for the person that said are they gonna do foot patrols! Wow that actually made me start laughing! PSP doesn’t do foot patrols anymore, that era is done with!

  • fed up

    So this is how the police are spending all the free time since all the real crime has been solved and stoped? Wow just another waste of tax money.

  • Shane

    Yeah, because this is a more important issue than the heroin/bath salt scourge, thieves and rapists in the area…

    Get a real job, folks. And I don’t mean stop being cops, I mean start doing your actual job of protecting and serving the community instead of worrying about insignificant things like this. Absolutely mind-blowing.

  • Stacey

    They’re worried about graffiti on an abandoned road. News flash people we have a severe drug problem in this area. Try focusing on the drug dealing going on. People are dying from drugs not graffiti on abandoned roads.

  • Skutka

    Thank you to the PA State Police for addressing the graffiti problem in Centralia. May the ghosts of this ghost town infest the entrails of the mindless, antisocial, defacing scribes and migrate to create a haunting mind fire in their vacuous skulls until they realize the error of their public scars on Highway 61. Long live Centralia, I respect that town for what it once was and the great people who lived there.

  • Valfreyja

    Central Pennsylvania summed up in one article: We have stupid police who waste tax payer money by “protecting” a nearly destroyed road that no one uses and isn’t in view of the public eye unless you go WELL out of your way to be there. We’re clearly dealing with Sgt. Brilliance right here.

    • Valfreyja

      Also, in the event anyone from the PSP is reading (and I know you are): Take a look at these comments. Look how many people are saying basically the same thing. Look at how many are agreeing with each other. This NEVER happens on WNEP.com. Central PA residents a pathologically allergic to being politically moderate with each other, let alone cordial. And yet here we are speaking with one voice.

      The ONE ISSUE that unites us is how much we’re sick of the horrendous job you people are doing, given the outrageous, NYC int he 1980’s variety crime that is taking place in a once VERY pleasant area. Get off your posterial donut storage pillows and DO. YOUR. JOBS.

  • bugeyed

    You can’t safely go outside after dark in Hazelton,
    not a week passes without a shooting in WB,
    heroin is common place, people are cooking meth in parking lots……

    BUT, by gawd, there will be justice for those evil graffiti artist who are defacing a stretch of macadam that was abandoned during Bill Clinton’s presidency– 20 freakin’ years agooooo.

    It takes a special kind of idiot…….

  • confetti

    From PSP website: “…our Core Purpose: To seek justice, preserve peace, and improve the quality of life for all.”

    So, just how does investigating rarely-seen graffiti on a road abandoned two decades ago fulfill any one of their “core purposes?” This is a classic case of “farkin’ the dog.”

  • Robert

    So the state police are going to crack down on an abandoned for 20 years piece of highway that their cars cant get too. There is a earthen barrier blocking the entrance and exit. Are they going to foot patrol the area they are talking about? I just dont understand why the state does these wasteful things.

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