SALT LAKE CITY — Capitol Reef National Park is among the landscapes in Utah with ancient rock art that officials say are under siege by vandals.
"We find (graffiti) everywhere, in every nook and cranny," said Scott Brown, chief of visitor and resource protection at the national park. "We've gone from dozens upon dozens a year as opposed to the five or six a year we used to handle. It has been a real problem."
Brown said the destruction is happening in areas throughout the park, including Capitol Gorge, Grand Wash, Hickman Bridge, Cassidy Arch Trail and most recently at the Highway Petroglyph Site.
Officials say the damage there was discovered about 10 days ago at one of the premier highlights for visitors along state Route 24. Someone defaced a panel with the words "Ivan Dallas TX," "Henn/Hena" and "DALLAS TX."
The writing appears in the dark patina next to the prehistoric images known as the bear and coyote, and on top of the image of a bighorn sheep.
"I think what we're seeing is a real lack of understanding about the delicate nature of these resources and people who aren't aware of how important they are," Brown said.
While park officials and the Bureau of Land Management do their best to restore the defaced work, the ancient work is never the same.
"Restoring these archeological sites and geologic features after deliberate vandalism is a complex, difficult process and not always possible. Once damage occurs at these remarkable works of art, they can never be fully repaired," said Leah McGinnis, Capitol Reef National Park superintendent.
Under the Archeological Resources Protection Act, the acts of vandalism are punishable by up to two years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine.
Park officials are asking anyone with information on the vandalism at the Highway Petroglyph Site or other areas within the park to call the National Park Service at 435-425-4135 or the Archeological Resource Protection Act Hotline at 800-227-7286.