ST. GEORGE — A dramatic rise in the number of graffiti incidents is occurring in areas throughout Capitol Reef National Park, and officials are asking for the public’s help in spreading the word about these illegal activities.
“Restoring these archaeological sites and geologic features after deliberate vandalism is a complex, difficult process and not always possible,” said Leah McGinnis, Capitol Reef National Park superintendent. “Once damage occurs at these remarkable works of art, they can never be fully repaired.”
The most recent graffiti markings in the park were discovered by officials about 10 days ago among prehistoric images at the Highway Petroglyph Site, which is considered one of the premier visitor highlights within the park and is visited by thousands of people every year, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the National Park Service.
Located in south-central Utah, Capitol Reef National Park is known for its massive sandstone formations, valley of red rocks, ancient writings and the Waterpocket Fold, a geologic monocline, or buckle in the earth’s surface, extending almost 100 miles.
The area was inhabited by the Fremont people, who carved the petroglyphs from about 250 to 1275 C.E., National Park officials said.
Now, in the dark patina alongside centuries-old Native American petroglyphs of a bear, a coyote and a bighorn sheep are the newly etched words “Ivan Dallas TX,” “Henn/Hena” and “DALLAS TX.”
Officials said the destruction is also happening in other areas throughout the park, including Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash, Hickman Bridge and Cassidy Arch Trail. While park officials and the Bureau of Land Management do their best to restore the defaced work, the ancient work is never the same.
Under the Archeological Resources Protection Act, the acts of vandalism are punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Park officials are asking anyone with information on the vandalism at the Highway Petroglyph Site or other areas within the park to call the National Park Service at 435-425-4135 or the Archeological Resources Protection Act Hotline at 800-227-7286.
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