Vandalism Spree Prompts Partial Closure Of Joshua Tree National Park

(April 19) JOSHUA TREE— The marring of boulders, rock outcroppings and other features within Joshua Tree National Park with graffiti has become so pervasive that earlier this week federal park officials closed several of the most popular hiking trails in the area to the public. More than 300 acres of the park deemed most vulnerable to vandalism have been declared off limits.
Rangers have found no fewer than 19 effaced areas within Rattlesnake Canyon alone, including world-renowned rock formations and historic Native American grounds. At Barker Dam, a century-old landmark, vandals used knives, chisels or other implements to scrape or carve words into the concrete.
Graffiti has long been a reality at the park, but was relatively limited as visitors to the remote desert area seemed for the most part to have a reverence for the wonders of the natural landscape there. But vandalism at Joshua Tree National Park has increased markedly in the last six to eight months, brought on, it seems by the new phenomenon of taggers posting photos of their handiwork on the internet, prompting others to join with them in a competition to scar the terrain. An effort is now underway to determine if those responsible can be identified. In some instances, the graffiti appears to be the names of the perpetrators. Some of the photos have been posted on social network sites such as Facebook.
Vandalism in a National Park is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 or six months in jail. Defacing a historic Native American is a felony, with fines of up to $25,000 and prison terms of more than one year.

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