The French organisers behind an ultra-marathon event in Malta will be taken to court after their attempt at removing markings sprayed in red paint in protected nature areas was in vain, Times of Malta is informed.

Caught in action chipping away at rock. Video: Cami Appelgren

On Wednesday, the police and Environment and Resources Authority officials traced participants of an event organised by Nature Extreme Developpement who admitted to spraying arrows guiding them through nature trails and pledged they will clean the markings. 

The founder of the company, Sergei Morel Jean told Times of Malta “not to worry about the marks” as they would be complying. 

The environmental regulator gave them until Friday to remove the markings using water.

Arrow covered with dirt. Video: Cami Appelgren

However, when environmentalist Cami Appelgren went to Għajn Tuffieħa in the evening, to check out for herself whether the arrows had been removed, it transpired that NED had tried cleaning the markings with chemicals and a steel brush to no avail. 

Appelgren said they also tried turning rocks over and covering the rocks with dirt to hide the red markings and also filmed them hand-chipping away at rocks. She called the police who went to the site, and were soon after accompanied by ERA officials.

Appelgren said the police and ERA officials escorted her, as main witness, and the NED participants, to document the damage.

Majjistral Park site manager Darren Saliba also accompanied the officials along the trail that should have been cleaned. The mapping will continue on Thursday at the park and the tour organisers will be prosecuted, he added.

The police said later on Thursday those responsible will be taken to court as the way the paint was being removed was not as agreed and approved upon by ERA officials on Wednesday.

The arrows, delineating tracking routes, have over the past days been flagged by runners and cyclists in Comino, Fomm ir-Riħ, Ras il-Qammieħ, the Red Tower area, Għar Lapsi and Majjistral Nature Park and Gozo.

At least two reports about the vandalism were filed with the police over the past days amid concerns that the paint used is toxic and could only be removed using chemicals.

Several expressed their shock and anger on social media, including on the company’s page. 

Overturned stone. Video: Cami Appelgren

“Do you even realise the severity of the damage you have caused across Malta and Gozo's countryside? Aerosol paint is impossible to remove completely by a simple scrubber and water or paint remover,” heritage architect Edward Said commented. 

“This is just like spraying graffiti on a limestone historic monument. Being an architect working in conservation I know this from experience. You have defaced a variety of Maltese limestone which has different extents of permeability and unless acted upon immediately using specialist interventions like poulticing, many will remain indelible. For the most part, your act of downright vandalism is permanent,” he added.

NED director Benoit Laval apologised on the same page: "we deeply apologise for all of this, and we will manage the problem and clean these ugly marks the soonest”.

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