Vandalism Harms our National Parks

On the sides of buildings and train cars, the inside of bathroom stalls, and bus stops, these are all places we are used to seeing vandalism. From spray paint to shattered glass, vandalism is a terrible crime that reduces the beauty and value of whatever is vandalized. The devastation of vandalism can be seen in small towns, big cities, and everywhere in between.

One of the most disappointing places to see vandalism is in our national parks. In places like Zion National Park, vandalism destroys the natural beauty that should be enjoyed during a visit. There are very few areas within the United States that have been left alone and unbothered by human intervention. The natural, historical, untouched beauty is what makes our national parks such wonderful places to be. When vandals commit their awful crimes in these gorgeous areas, it takes away from the wonder of the park and destroys irreplaceable things.

What is vandalism?

Vandalism is described as the destruction or damage of property in a deliberate manner. This definition encompasses many ways that people use to vandalize both private and public property. Some of the more common ways in which criminals vandalize in parks and other locations are spray painting, arson, and destruction of property by breaking or smashing. No matter how a person chooses to vandalize property, it is a serious crime with equally serious consequences.

The punishment for vandals after they are tried and convicted varies greatly based on many factors. For misdemeanor vandalism, sentences can be issued in the form of fines, jail time, or a combination of the two. For more serious vandalism, where the act results in a felony charge, vandals can expect to serve time in state prison and receive hefty fines. Since there is no reward for vandalism, but the punishments are significant, it’s hard to understand why anyone would choose to deface or damage property that is not their own.

Why do people vandalize?

While it’s difficult to understand the motive behind vandalism, there are a few different reasons cited for why people damage property. There is, however, never a good reason to deface property in a national park or any other location. These ‘reasons’ should be seen more as excuses for poor decision making.

Peer pressure is one of the most common reasons vandals blame for their destruction. Falling in with the wrong crowd can certainly be a factor in why younger people commit crimes. The desire to be accepted and fit into a group can be strong enough to cause people, especially teens and young adults, to make poor decisions.

Another common reason for vandalism is a lack of respect for other people and authority. Some people use vandalism to release their anger and ‘get back at’ those they feel have wronged them. The truth is, by vandalizing beautiful places like Zion National Park, the people they are hurting the most have nothing to do with their issues.

While it may seem unlikely, a lack of education and understanding is one of the biggest reasons for vandalism, especially in our national parks. When visitors do not understand the importance of natural formations and man-made structures, they may damage them unintentionally. There are many unfortunate examples of this vandalism in national parks. Damage can be caused in a variety of ways, like trying to take pieces of a geological formation, intentionally or accidentally knocking over or displacing natural formations, and carving or painting names on park property.
Whether the vandalism is accidental or intentional, it is a crime that hurts so much more than most people realize, especially when it is done in our national parks.

How does vandalism hurt our national parks?

When a vandal strikes, the harm they cause is immediately obvious on the surface. Whether they use spray paint or force, whatever the vandal has damaged is left with the mark of their actions. However, the impact of their crime has effects that go far beyond aesthetics.

When National Parks are vandalized, it can mean that the park will never be the same. Natural formations have taken hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years to look how they do today. These parts of the park are literally irreplaceable, so when they are defaced or damaged, a piece of earth’s history is gone forever.

In addition to the chance that a natural wonder could be lost forever, national parks lose money, lots of money, trying to repair what vandals have done. Between trying to preserve the look and integrity of natural features and replacing manmade objects, repairing the damage done by vandals can be expensive. The money spent to undo these senseless acts is money that could be much better spent improving the beauty of the park. When vandals target national parks, they are hurting the park is so many unseen ways.

How can you help?

Keeping our national parks beautiful is something that everyone should be concerned about. To preserve these special areas for future generations, we must keep them in pristine condition. But, if you aren’t a vandal, how can you help prevent vandalism?

The best way to prevent vandalism is to be knowledgeable about the parks and their structures. Understand that, even if you really want to, you don’t need to carve your name in that rock or take a piece of a canyon wall. The only things you should take away from national parks, like Zion National Park, are memories and photographs.

Another way you can prevent the damage from vandalism is to report anything suspicious to authorities. If you see someone who appears to be intent on defacing park property, don’t stand by. Alert park officials or local police to their activity. You could be the person that preserves America’s historic beauty.

Keep national parks beautiful

There is nothing more calming than visiting an area left unchanged by human hands. If we hope to preserve these special areas for future generations, we must prevent their destruction through vandalism. By understanding what vandalism is and being knowledgeable about structures and formations in national parks, we are well on our way to preserving America’s natural history.

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