Vandalism Forces National Park's Closure
Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, known for its expanse of desert covered with the gnarled trees, that famously had a U2 album named after it, has been closed to the public because of graffiti.
The acts of graffiti have become so pervasive at the park's most popular hiking spots that officials have closed the areas to the public. Officials blame the large increase in vandalism on social media, Travelerstoday.com reported.
Park rangers have found graffiti spray painted on 17 sites, including the famous rock formations and historic Native American sites in the park's Rattlesnake Canyon. Rangers closed off the historic Barker Dam after vandals carved their names into the cement of the landmark from the Old West.
The graffiti started with only a few markings, but quickly increased. Official believe the vandals posted pictures of their work on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, which encouraged others to leave their own graffiti in the same spots.
"I've worked at six national parks, and this is the most extensive I've seen in 20 years," Pat Pilcher, a park ranger, told the Associated Press during a tour of the damage.
Visitors who visit the park to enjoy the solitude and isolation of the desert terrain, the graffiti has become an unwelcome reminder of urban blight, with Los Angeles located about 140 miles east of the park.
"You kind of feel like you're alone, in ancient times," Butch Wood, 51, a visitor from Illinois told the Los Angeles Times. "You don't like to see the modern world intruding on history. It's a shame."
Park service law enforcement officers are investigating the vandalism, according to Pilcher. If the perpetrators are caught and convicted, the vandals could face up to $5,500 in fines and six months in jail. The penalty could be more severe for those convicted of defacing the historic Native American site.
Officials are closing 308 acres of the canyon until April 30 while volunteers from the Urban School of San Francisco help scrub the graffiti off the giant boulders, according to the San Bernardino Sun.
It's currently unknown how the park will repair the damage at Barker Dam.