Social media encouraging graffiti in National Parks

An Associated Press story by Michelle L. Price dated April 28, 2016, states that rangers in Arches National Park were investigating graffiti carved so deeply into an arch that it might be impossible to erase.

According to park Superintendent Kate Cannon, the carvings measure about four feet across and three feet high, and are part of a “tidal wave of graffiti” at national parks in recent years.

Two years ago, at least eight national parks began cleaning up graffiti on famous  landscapes after damage was shared and discovered on social media.

Social media seems to be driving this increased vandalism, but Cannon also noted that  graffiti generally has become inexplicably popular among visitors. She hopes public outrage can reduce the behavior.

Defacing surfaces in a national park is illegal and punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

My Take

Clearly, six months in jail and $5000 is not enough of a deterrent to protect the parks.

I remember a National Parks public service campaign years ago that said, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” As a child, those simple words left a lasting impression … as did the parks themselves. Never have I felt as close to the creator as I have when visiting our national parks and immersing myself in their incomparable splendor. Four billion years of geologic history are exposed within the walls of Zion Canyon, one of the most magical and mystical places on earth.

It deeply troubles me that defacing such wonders has become a social media sport. Surely, this isn’t what the inventors of FaceBook had in mind as they were inventing the network. How pathetic these vandals are … desecrating sacred places in minutes that took eons to make.

Every national park I have ever visited has something special about it that sets it apart from the surrounding countryside. Each park is part of our priceless national heritage, something visionary men and women fought to preserve for all mankind and all time.

How popular are the parks? I’m not the only person to feel as strongly about them as I do. Here’s an amazing statistic. NFL attendance last year was approximately 17 million. But national park attendance during the same period was more than 307 million. That’s 18 times more! Also consider that the U.S. population during 2015 was estimated to be 321 million.

I lump the thoughtless, misguided, narcissistic delinquents who deface our parks right down there with terrorists.

We should borrow a slogan from the anti-terrorism handbook – “If you see something, say something … whether it’s in the parks or on the Internet.” Clearly, rangers can’t be everywhere at once. Give them a hand.

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