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Rock ‘cairn’ vandalism marks Petroglyph Park in New Mexico

June 27, 2021 GMT

Authorities at Petroglyph National Monument said Friday that visitors committed extensive vandalism by collecting rocks and stacking them in the form of cairns, sometimes used as a hiking trail marker.

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The federally protected park was created to preserve rock designs scratched by Indigenous people starting at least 700 years ago, and Spanish settlers as far back as 400 years ago.

Venturing off trails and rearranging rocks in modern times is a violation of federal regulations.

“Moving, stacking, or making shapes out of rocks is a form of vandalism and will impact every visitor who comes after,” said Park Superintendent Nancy Hendricks, asking visitors to “respect these sacred landscapes.”

National Park Service workers are dismantling the stacks of rocks, but can’t be sure they’ll return the rocks where they came from along the largely preserved desert landscape.

The agency is asking the public to share information about the person or persons who may have moved the rocks. The vandalism was first reported to the agency on June 17, according to a statement.

Last year, a visitor was shocked with a Taser by a park ranger after he left a trail at the park, which lies northwest of Albuquerque.

In March 2021, the National Parks Service said it concluded the officer’s actions were appropriate. The male visitor was cited by the agency for being in a closed area off the trail, providing false information and failing to comply with a lawful order. A female visitor who was with him was cited for providing false information and being in a closed area off the trail.