Graffiti In Our National Parks

Pictographs tagged in Sequoia National Park

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We’ve come to expect to see graffiti in alleyways, on the sides of buses, on schools, even on people themselves—in short, in Anywhere, Urban America. Where we don’t expect to see vandalism is up in the high country or in our national forests or parks. But guess what: Graffiti artists are moving in.

Back in September, an archeologist working in Sequoia National Park found the words “Villa dad and Isiah 09” scratched into a protected rock formation in a preserved 1,000 year-old American Indian village. Authorities promptly removed the graffiti, which was found next to centuries-old pictographs that many indigenous cultures consider sacred.

Acts of this sort are not uncommon in our nation’s parks and protected forests. Although parks like California’s Golden Gate Park and others in close proximity to urban areas are the hardest hit (mainly due to gang-tagging), park officials say that graffiti is a fairly constant problem, even in our nation’s more remote parks.

Many taggers might not realize that marring national property constitutes breaking the law (even if you’re way out in the woods) and can be punishable by up to $20,000 and two years in prison, depending on the level of offense. Under the Archeological Resources Protection Act, certain types of graffiti are considered felony acts.

Isiah and his dad most likely won’t land in the big house, but if they’re ever tracked down, they could be charged with a misdemeanor, pay up to $5,000 in fines, and spend six months in jail. In the past, people who have simply left their “John Hancock was here” have been pursued, prosecuted, and convicted.

Now you know: Next time you have that great urge to carve “I love Bobby,” or “LML + RSW 4-EVER” (encircled by a heart, of course), or “Villa mom and me ’10” on a rock or tree while trekking through a national park, just don’t . Let’s leave the graffiti at the gate, hmm?

––Jessie Lucier

Graffiti Mars Pictographs at Sequoia Park