I wrote recently about people feeling free to scratch their names into the salt beds at Badwater in Death Valley National Park and whether we should be ambivalent toward this “temporary” graffiti. Even if nature can eventually erase it, doesn’t it just encourage others to mark more areas of our national parks with their names where it’s not nearly as easy for nature to remove the graffiti?
Here is another one of those questions that I recently began to wonder about with a recent trip to Yosemite National Park. Just beyond Mirror Lake to the left is a large area that has been completely taken over by rock stacking. There are literally thousands of rocks which have been stacked and balanced by people completely transforming this are from its natural state:
The first reaction from most of the people who stumbled across it was the thought it might be a cemetery of some type, but it quickly becomes apparent that people simply decided to begin stacking rocks and continue to do so. While many would not consider this being nearly as disruptive as people scratching their name into sandstone or spray painting their name on walls, isn’t rock stacking nothing more than another way of leaving a type of graffiti in our national parks by moving nature into unnatural arrangements? Just because it looks better than a name written on a rock, does that make it OK to do?
What do you think? Is rock stacking fundamentally different from other types of graffiti and therefore OK, or is it something that should be discouraged just as much as what we would consider typical graffiti?
One of the unfortunate things and growing problem that I see much too often at national parks is graffiti. I really don’t understand why people feel it’s necessary to come to an amazingly beautiful place, and they feel the need to leave a mark so that it isn’t quite as beautiful for the next person that comes around. In fact, some national parks have resorted to putting up anti graffiti fine signs in an attempt to keep people from marking up sites within national parks. During my recent visit to Death Valley at Badwater, one thing that you couldn’t help but notice was the large amount of graffiti etched into the salt while walking out into the valley:
Not only was there a lot of it, people were openly carving their preferred graffiti into the salt without a hint of anything being wrong in doing so. I stopped to ask a few people who were carving their names into the salt why they thought it was OK and they gave two basic answers. First, they said that everyone else had done it so one more person doing it wouldn’t really matter. The second reason was that the graffiti wasn’t really “permanent” since water would at some point flow over it and wash it away in time. They likened it to writing something on a beach where the waves would eventually come in and wash whatever was written in the sand away.
The problem with the first justification I think is obvious to all. Just because someone has done something doesn’t make it right and OK for others to do. The problem with the second is that the process of eliminating the salt graffiti would take a much longer period than the waves washing away things written in the sand. The graffiti etched into the salt was likely to stay there for months at a minimum.
While I was disappointed that so many people felt the need to write their names into the salt, the second justification does bring up an interesting question. In your opinion, is temporary graffiti acceptable in any instance in national parks?
One of the things that distresses me when visiting the National Parks is that is seems that more and more people find it necessary to leave their name inside the National Parks. I’m not sure why people feel the need to deface these natural wonders — what is it that makes people think that it’s a good idea to spray paint or carve their name into the rocks at National Parks? It saddens me to no end that signs like this actually need to be posted these days in National Parks (this one was found at Capitol Reef National Park):
I remember hiking in Arches National Park well away from the most visited places and running into a ranger that was cleaning up marks that people had left on some of the remote arches. He said it was a constant battle because if people see that one person has done it, they feel it’s OK for them to do it as well. Sharpie markers, along with gum, were the bane of his existence.
If you ever see park rangers out and about cleaning the natural wonders that we visit, be sure to thank them — and don’t be shy in discouraging anyone from marking natural wonders in the National Parks…