Archives for : vandalism

Retired Park Ranger Weighs in AGAINST a National Park

Retired park ranger, William Solawetz of Grand Junction, reaffirms the case that Friends of the Colorado National Monument has made against national park status for the Colorado National Monument.

His compelling letter to the editor was printed in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel on July 4, 2014.

Delicate Arch Tourist Crowds

Tourists crowd the viewing area on the way to Delicate Arch in nearby Arches National Park.

Retired ranger concerned over monument redesignation

I am a retired Utah park ranger, manager and student of park management and design for over three decades. There are many reasons not to alter the current designation of Colorado National Monument, and I will mention a few.

I have visited the monument weekly, year-round since 2001. With relatively small increases in visitor use during that time, I have observed full parking lots at all times of year, as well as resource damage due to traffic overflow and congestion. Other damage has occurred from the creation of many social trails, vandalism and graffiti.

The monument is a very limited and finite resource. If money were invested, facilities could be improved and manpower increased, but there is little that can be done to mitigate the damage to the resource and the user experience, by flooding the area with more vehicles and footprints. Expansion of parking areas will only exacerbate crowding. Significant road improvement would destroy the resource we are attempting to preserve. Increases in global population and the subsequent travelers that come with it are more than enough for managers to contend with. You can help preserve John Otto’s legacy by not renaming the monument. It has been a monument for over 100 years.

While a very few people may benefit financially from a name change and the exposure it presents, the local population, visitors and the monument itself, as a natural resource that we have sworn to preserve, will be on the losing side.

Economic growth should not be a factor in deciding the designation of a national park. The purpose of designating an area as a national park or monument is to protect the area and its natural inhabitants for generations to come and for all Americans to share in its ownership and stewardship. This beautiful piece of canyon country is already protected and preserved with its monument designation. Any change in name or status would be redundant.


National Parks: Higher Visibility and Vandalism

As National Parks become more visible, the temptation by social media “celebrity vandals”  to destroy their features becomes greater.

In recent years numerous national parks have suffered a surge in vandalism, thanks to increased visibility and social media. In nearby Arches National Park, according to an April 11, 2014 article in the Salt Lake Tribune, the Sand Dunes Ranch section had to be closed from public access because of heavy vandalism to its sandstone boulders and cliffs. Rangers described the 20 by 30 ft section of sandstone wall as “deeply etched with graffiti” and said that the degree of destruction was surprising since this section of the park is “tucked away,” off the beaten path. This recent case in Arches, just across the Utah border from Mesa County, appears to be part of a growing trend in which vandals take pictures of their their destructive activities and post them to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Salt Lake Tribune photo

Joshua Tree National Park, popular among residents of Southern California, Western Arizona, and Southern Nevada, is beginning to look like an extension of some graffiti-covered urban centers. In 2013 hundreds of acres and miles of trails traversing Joshua Tree’s giant bounders and unusual vegetation had to be closed due to an outbreak of graffiti vandalism. Boulders and some trees were damaged, mostly by spray paint, some scrawled with indecipherable messages and gang tags. Again, accounts point to vandals taking pride in causing damage to a highly prized national parks, and subsequently posting “trophy” images or videos on social media.


Graffiti on boulders at Joshua Tree National Park.

CNN photo

In September of 2013 the National Parks Service reported on an alarming trend in park vandalism that has resulted in at least 9,000 instances of vandalism within national parks since 2009. In some areas this trend appears to be fueled by “competition” between self-titled graffiti artists, but the “viral” nature of social media postings of defaced national park features is enticing many to become “celebrity” vandals.

Social media, however, is not the only driver behind vandalism at national parks. Just weeks ago in March, a 190-million-year-old fossilized dinosaur track was chipped from its sandstone matrix in Canyonlands National Park, and stolen. The vandalism was very likely the result of treasure seeking.

National Park status comes at a cost. Though visitation to national parks and other National Park Service-managed areas is not increasing overall, visibility through social media is. There are some who aren’t content with photographs of beautiful vistas, and friends and family posing before majestic landscapes and monuments. Social media is driving an increasing appetite for fame, and the vandalism of famous national park sites brings attention where photographic travelogues get a “ho-hum.”

Are the costs of higher visibility worth in to those of us who live near the Colorado National Monument? Proponents tout higher visitor numbers and more cash in the local economy, and those points are disputable, but it’s indisputable that the more visible and renowned the national park, the more likely it is to be hit with vandalism by someone seeking 15 minutes of Instagram fame.

The Colorado National Monument is a treasure to those who live within its shadow. It’s relatively well-managed in its current status, and locals provide eyes, ears, and helping hands where the NPS cannot always be. With a change in status this small national monument, with its fragile desert soil, sandstone cliffs, and abundant wildlife, could be exposed to increased visibility, traffic, congestion, as well as unintentional and INTENTIONAL human destruction. National park status is not work the risk. Let’s protect our national monument  from “celebrity vandals.”