ST. GEORGE — As visitation continues to show an upward trend, Zion National Park has been experiencing a troubling amount of graffiti from visitors determined to make their mark on the park.
“It’s bad,” park spokesperson Amanda Rowland said.
Now officials are asking the public for their help in following the basic tenants of Leave No Trace philosophies, particularly the well-known adage of “take only photographs, leave only footprints.”
“No one comes to the park expecting to see graffiti, but, nearly every day, staff find words and shapes, carved, drawn, painted (with mud, dirt, pigment, paint), or scratched on rocks and more recently even carved within moss,” information from a park press release said.
Both September and October posted record monthly visitation for the park despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with October seeing nearly 130,000 more visitors this year than in 2019.
According to visitor statistic information on Zion National Park’s website, October 2019 posted 429,604 visitors whereas October of this year saw 559,342 people visit the park. September is a similar story with 497,443 people visiting in 2019 and 520,987 in September of this year.
The increase in visitors has also brought a different type of visitor. One that has potentially never visited a national park before.
“They are different visitors than we normally get,” Zion’s Chief Ranger Daniel Fagergren said in a previous St. George News report regarding graffiti, adding that many of them don’t have the same affinity for public lands as visitors in the past.
With over 4 million annual visitors, officials are asking everyone who comes to do their part to preserve the natural and archaeological artifacts so that every visitor has the same opportunity as the next to see Zion National Park in as pristine condition as possible.
The mission of the National Park Service is to do just that, to “conserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations.”
Graffiti is also costly for the park and time consuming for staff and volunteers to remove.
“Depending on the area damaged and what the surface is, it can take park staff hours to remove using a variety of equipment that has to be carried to the site,” the press release said. “Often, a damaged site can never be fully restored to its original condition.”
The park offered several tips to help enhance and share the visitor experience rather than leaving marks on the rocks and plants.
Ideas include taking photos, sharing the visit in conversation with family and friends, writing letters or postcards, and sharing the experience via social media.
“The goal with our visitation is to educate folks,” Rowland said, adding that the message needs to get out there that graffiti is not OK.
Not only is it not OK, but it is also illegal.
“Graffiti is a crime. If caught, a person can be cited, with a mandatory appearance before the federal magistrate in St. George, which could lead to up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine,” the park press release said.
Visitors with information that could help identify those responsible for damaging park resources or facilities are asked to contact the park via the tip line at 888-653-0009. This information could help investigators. Callers don’t have to identify who they are but are asked to share what they know so rangers can prevent this damage from happening in the future.
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