Vandalism up at New Mexico’s Petroglyph National Monument

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Vandalism at one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America appears to be on the rise as the area experiences a jump in visitors, officials said.

Petroglyph National Monument Superintendent Nancy Hendricks said last week crews have reported three episodes of vandalism this year at the monument in Albuquerque, KRQE-TV reports.

Those acts include spray paint on the rocks at Boca Negra Canyon in the past two months, vandalism at headquarters and carved rocks at the Rinconada Canyon Trail.

Petroglyph National Monument features designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. These images are a record of cultural expression and hold spiritual significance for contemporary Native Americans and for the descendants of the early Spanish settlers.

“Even if people go out there just with a pocket knife or another piece of rock, it leaves a permanent scar and it has permanent impacts on the Petroglyph Monument and on the rocks themselves that we can’t remove 100%,” Hendricks said.

The monument has seen an increase in foot traffic in recent months because it has remained open during the statewide health order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re seeing a lot of increased illegal activity. We’re seeing a lot more litter on our trails. We’re seeing a lot more bicycles, which bicycling is not allowed in the monument,” Hendricks said.

To help prevent vandalism, the monument has a group of trail watch volunteers, and rangers have adjusted work schedules.

Albuquerque police are investigating the vandalism. No arrests have been made.