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This summer, a group of artists have taken the liberty of painting the rainbow - literally.

The fabled multihued arc just off the Don Valley Parkway, sometimes called the Moccasin Rainbow Tunnel, was once crowned with a word we may find on a neighbour's front doorstep, "Welcome."

Until Thursday, it read "Lesbian Rule."

It appears to have been an art project by a group that dated its masterpiece "7/13/08" and signed it "Kailey A., Lyndsey C., Will W7 and Cullum."

The artists repainted the stripes with choppy brushstrokes in acrylics, which are not water-resistant.

Crisp flakes had already begun to peel, revealing the older colours beneath.

"It's a shame. It was so lovely," said Christine Christie, who was walking her bulldog, Rosie, along the Moccasin Trail in leafy green Charles Sauriol Conservation Reserve Park on a recent evening.

"It's one thing to repaint it, another to deface it."

While the original brave rainbow on the south end of the pedestrian underpass had homely beginnings, it has been growing in fame.

The arc's first painter remains a mystery, but it seems to have shown up in the 1970s.

The city took a run at cleaning it up at one point, but the vibrant shades reappeared and the city left it.

Later, someone scrawled, "Rainbow Hunter 1981-1982," in the bottom right-hand corner of the underpass.

This March, it became the talk of the town in London, when Tate Britain ran a retrospective exhibition of Peter Doig, the Edinburgh-born, Toronto-raised art star, which included one of his seven Country Rock paintings of the roadside landmark, done on canvas, paper and linen, starting in 1998.

However, the City of Toronto was not so smitten with the latest bold incarnation.

The department of parks, forestry and recreation leaped into action.

A big white cloud of paint now covers the Lesbian Rule wording.

"Certainly, it's something we wouldn't allow to stay there," said Bill Harding, manager of parks.

"I think 'welcome' was something that has always been there.

" 'Welcome' is the only thing that we allow."

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