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Lois Collins: Vandals are selfish thieves who should be dealt with accordingly

False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
False Kiva in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
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Photographer Tim Wier's Photographers Trail Notes blog includes a description of a special site in Canyonlands, until this week remote but accessible to those who were willing to make an effort to reach the site and take in the vista it provides.

"The False Kiva is one of the most enchanting mysteries of the American Southwest and provides a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime view from inside an alcove overlooking the Green River canyon," the blog says. Then it backs up the assertion with a spectacular photo of the area taken from inside and framed by the arch. The photo itself takes my breath away and makes me yearn to go there.

But there's no point; I was beaten to the spot by vandals. You probably were, too.

As vandals are wont to do, they've harmed it to the point that it must be closed off for its protection, no longer reachable by the innocent traveler who's willing to admire nature's majesty in a respectful, even reverential manner.

The closure of this manmade arch in Canyonlands — I could find no explanation of exactly when the delicate 15-foot circle was created or why — is just the most recent example of the cost we all pay for the stupidity and selfishness of a few.

I have always had a passion for ghost towns. Fortunately for me, I'm old enough to have had the privilege of visiting a few really mostly intact ghost towns in the Southwest before vandals got there and picked them clean or knocked them down or scrawled their names on them with paint. Nowadays, it's hard to fnd much to see in many ghost towns, unless they're being guarded or turned into buy-a-ticket tourist spots that someone patrols. And a lot of great historical sites are now locked away on private property or deemed out of bounds for visitors by agencies that know it's the only way to preserve them.

And I am forever grateful when I encounter one you can pay to visit, by the way, or those would likely fall to someone's bratty desire to take or toss or trash if someone didn't act as caretaker.

Many Utahns remember a video a few years ago of men toppling a rock "goblin" that experts dated as being probably 170 million years old in Goblin Valley. They said it looked like it was going to fall over on its own and might hurt someone. They thought by knocking it down they might be creating a safer environment for others who visit. They were charged and later given probation for the action.

Whatever their intentions, when you visit a site in nature — and that area is full of rock "goblins" perched on other formations — you leave it alone out of respect for nature and your fellow humans.

I will never understand the motivation of the individual who saw prehistoric art carved into a rock panel in Capitol Reef National Park and thought he or she would add a little carving to it. Maybe it was momentary misguided impulse. Still appalling.

There was nothing impulsive about carrying black spray paint to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument to deface rock formations there. Ditto the goof who sprayed "You're perfect to me" on a large rock wall in Colorado National Monument. Not close to perfect.

On the National Park Service webpage that documents such damage, those acts are referred to as "cultural violence."

In Oregon, vandals filmed themselves toppling the "iconic" formation Duckbill.

It doesn't just occur in nature. Vandals attack public parks, playgrounds, aquatic parks, neighborhood fences, even churches. It's bizarre, costly, juvenile and a crime that should be punished. If I see it, I promise I'll report it and hope others will, too.

Perhaps some adolescents and adults need to be treated like grade schoolers who are taught to fold their arms across their chests whenever they venture out.

Every act of vandalism robs and betrays all of us.

I might never have made the climb to False Kiva. But I had a right to see it if I chose to do so.