“It is all over the place”: Graffiti vandals in Zion Nationwide Park are damaging protected land

Posted by Jeff on Dec 10, 2020 @ 6:36 am in Conservation | 0 comments | Last change: December 8, 2020

As visitor numbers reach record highs in Zion National Park, park officials are asking the public for help as they face a growing challenge: unprecedented levels of graffiti on the most popular trails of the protected sanctuary.

“We take this very seriously and it will be a big problem for us,” says ranger Daniel Fagergren. “It is everywhere.”

Almost every day, he says, Zion workers find words and shapes painted and drawn with mud, dirt, or pigments, or even scratched onto rocks or carved in moss. Vandalism has been spotted on most of Zion Canyon hikes, including The Narrows, Angels Landing, West Rim Trail, Emerald Pools Trails, and Kayenta Trail. It has increased since park officials first pointed out the growing concern in September.

There are two issues with graffiti, both related to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Fagergren.

One reason for the problem could be that thousands of first-time visitors from across the nation have flooded the park, including residents of major cities under strict restrictions, some of whom may not appreciate or understand the ethics of maintaining and protecting public land. He says September and October were both record months for visits. In October the number of visitors increased by 30% compared to October 2019, another record year.

Fagergren said another part of the problem is that there have been fewer patrols keeping a keen eye out for vandals as he works to protect his own employees and prevent them from catching COVID-19. While more and more vandalism has slipped through the cracks as a result, he found that graffiti is also contagious and spreads exponentially as more and more visitors see the vandalism and assume the acts are acceptable.

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