Leave No Trace? Not in the National Parks These Days

'What can we do as a culture to cut down on these occurrences?'
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 25, 2017 9:30 AM CDT

(Newser) – There's a growing number of vandalism citations at national parks in the US, and the Mesa Verde National Park in southwest Colorado appears to be a top target. In a Facebook post, the park says its mission of educating and inspiring "this and future generations" through the "unimpaired" preservation of natural and cultural resources is up against a tide of "intentional damage." That includes people painting rocks for what look like scavenger hunts, rubbing and etching dates and names into stones, and stacking rock "cairns" that can lead visitors off park paths. Other parts of Colorado have been routinely vandalized as well, and Hanging Lake actually had to close due to overcrowding, reports CBS Local, and even busted yoga models posing in restricted areas.

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Mesa Verde, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to wall paintings that go back nearly 5,000 years, now welcomes more than half a million visitors a year, reports Gear Junkie. Just last month, someone went so far as to rub names into sandstone using prehistoric charcoal dug up at a nearby archaeological site—thereby "destroying archaeological artifacts" while vandalizing the cliff, per the park's Facebook post. In 2013, visitors to Goblin Valley in Utah knocked down rock structures, while Lake Mead in Nevada has had nearly 200 graffiti citations since then. "Why do you think people do this?" NPS writes, adding, "What can we do as a culture to cut down on these occurrences?" Educating others about "proper stewardship of public lands," it adds, could help crack down on the vandalism. (One woman was banned from 524 million acres of public land.)

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