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Vandals spray-paint historic rock site signed in 1800s

April 28, 2020 GMT

ALMO, Idaho (AP) — Vandals have spray-painted graffiti on a historic Idaho landmark in City of Rocks National Reserve in what officials say is the worst case of vandalism in the park’s history.

Camp Rock, one of the formations at City of Rocks near Almo in south central Idaho, was vandalized late Friday or early Saturday, National Reserve superintendent Wallace Keck said. He believes two to six people were involved.

“It has to be removed very carefully,” Keck told the Idaho Statesman. “We can’t just sandblast it or scrub it off. It will come down; it will come off. We’re not going to let the vandalism stand.”

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Camp Rock was a common camping site in the 1840s and 1850s for tens of thousands of emigrants following the California Trail. Many signed their names in axle grease on the site’s granite boulders, park officials said. Some of the signatures are still visible and have helped historians research the lives of the people who passed through more than 150 years ago, the Times-News reported.

“When you spray-paint over that, not only do you immediately lose that information, the experience of City of Rocks and the history is severely degraded and ruined,” Keck said. “It’s the worst spray-paint vandalism in the history of City of Rocks.”

Defacement is illegal under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act enacted in 1979 to protect archaeological sites on public and Indian lands, Keck said. First-time felony offenders could face up to a year in prison and a $20,000 fine, and second-time offenders could face up to five years and a $100,000 fine.

The City of Rocks posted photos of the graffiti on Facebook. As of Monday, the post received more than 400,000 views, several thousand shares and more than 500 comments.

“A lot of people care about what has happened and have been coming forward with tips and helpful hints,” Keck said. “I’ve received dozens of pieces of info that might be helpful. ... We’re closer to (solving this) than you might think.”