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August 22, 2020 5 min read


Driving into Zion National Park is an ethereal experience. Filled with amber and orange Navajo Sandstone, dreamy blue skies, and lush greens overflowing onto the roads, this park’s contrasting beauty will make you feel like you are on a different planet. 

Now imagine this beautiful place being defaced with bright blue graffiti. 

Source: Zion NPS Facebook

In late July 2020, visitors vandalized Zion’s remarkable sandstone with thick blue paint in 6 separate areas. The once untouched area is now marked with the remnants of someone’s decision to disregard the sacredness of protected land. Unfortunately, this type of action is not uncommon in the National Park Service’s history and, in addition to taking away from the historical beauty of these protected lands, it adds costs to an organization with already limited funds. 

The United States is quickly losing protected land to harmful habits like fracking and oil drilling, and the National Park Service is aiming to preserve what little land we have left and protect our country’s fragile environment. While many corporations continue to disregard the need for environmental protection, there is an opportunity to teach the importance of preserving national parks and the devastating effects of vandalism.

Although the destruction of natural places may feel like a fun in-the-moment prank that seems harmless, this behavior can cause permanent damage. One uneducated decision can ruin opportunities for future generations to enjoy these beautiful places and reduce resources a park once had. 

Source: ked.org/news

Unfortunately, the recent graffiti in Zion is not the first occurrence of a national park hurting from vandalism. In addition to national parks preserving land, they preserve history and feature many incredible pieces of the past, including petroglyphs and pictographs that, once damaged, can never be preserved again. In 2014 an individual took a Sharpie and  defaced Yosemite’s rock formations  at the trailhead of the John Muir Trail. The process of removing the graffiti took many labor-intensive hours of scraping the rock while trying to preserve the original formations. One of the phrases defacing Yosemite’s rocks arrogantly boasted, “I came, I saw, I vandalized National Park Property," showing a clear gap in knowledge for the importance of this beautiful nature and the strong reasoning to defend these national treasures.

Vandalism can also take form in not following the rules and trespassing in marked-off areas. Walking off trails, invading areas that are clearly off-limits, and disregarding the rules for your personal benefit have long-lasting and unfortunate effects on the parks. In the age of vanity, there have been many avoidable deaths caused by trying to take the “perfect selfie,” or exploring a marked-off area for a photo opportunity. In 2016, a group of vloggers decided to  walk on the delicate thermal areas  of Yellowstone. The fragile ecosystems that live within this park cannot handle external disruption, like people stomping through the sensitive bacterial mats. In a culture of instant gratification, many people will cause great harm without intentionally trying to inflict damage to the parks, because they lack information or care, and their actions will have implications for years.

Source: lamag.com

During the 2019 government shutdown, many parks were closed due to a lack of staff. Some individuals took the opportunity to harm a few of the most extraordinary landscapes in the country. The beautiful, unique trees in Joshua Tree National Park were disregarded and knocked onto the dirt, causing damage that can never be repaired. The fragile ecosystem of Joshua Tree is difficult to protect, but with the severe damage to this area, the reparation process will take years to accomplish. After this terrible event, the superintendent of the park said, “What’s happened to our park in the last 34 days is irreparable for the next 200 to 300 years.”

Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Joshua Tree; the list goes on. National parks have directly had to deal with the hardships of vandalism since their inception. But this time can be an opportunity to teach others the importance of protecting our parks. We can transform the anger and sadness that we currently feel into passion and momentum to join together and protect these incredible parks. Right now is the time to call your friends, inform them about the importance of protecting nature, and invite others to join in this fight. Making the outdoors a more diverse and inclusive space will only help strengthen the push for conservation. These devastating stories connect us in despair but push us to be stewards for the environment, now more than ever. 

If you are upset by these acts of vandalism, there are great resources that help support these incredible places! Here are a few ways you can support the cause:

  • Want to give directly to the source? A donation to the  National Park Foundation  will help increase resources to preserve the 400 parks and 84 million acres of land and protect the world’s most treasured ecosystems, landscapes, and historical sites.
  • Looking to rock national park inspired clothing?  The Parks Project creates beautifully designed t-shirts and accessories inspired by each park. Rep this awesome gear and be proud that a percentage of each purchase directly funds specific projects in the various parks.  
  • Can’t survive without a good cup of coffee?  National Parks Coffee Company  creates sustainable coffee options with delicious flavors inspired by each park. With each purchase, you’ll be supporting the parks in myriad ways, as well as local communities. Start your mornings strong with this flavorful coffee, and feel good knowing you're supporting the parks while doing so.
  • Seeking to join a group of like-minded individuals?  Leave No Trace Members to join together to help educate people about their impacts on the outdoors. This group not only restores multiple areas nationwide but encourages youth to join the pact to protect the outdoors. With multiple initiatives, Leave No Trace offers a range of projects to help protect nature and educate people on the best practices for recreating responsibly. 

Let our actions today help protect the possibilities for future generations. Look up at the dramatic water crashing down from Yosemite Falls. Gaze in sheer amazement at the incredible geysers in Yellowstone. Soak up the views of the unique Joshua trees. Transport to another planet as you walk through the lush colors of Zion. We have an opportunity to fight for change, spread knowledge, and strengthen appreciation. Do you know someone who is visiting a national park? Help them prepare with this article on  things you should never do in a national park.  Areyouplanning a trip? Invite someone new to experience a beautiful national park. Share your knowledge and create an inclusive group of environmentalist warriors ready to stand up for these beautiful areas. 

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