Graffiti In Parfrey’s Glen

Graffiti In Parfrey’s Glen

Graffiti problems are accelerating at Parfrey’s Glen State Natural area just east of Devil’s Lake State Park. I could go into all the reasons this is getting worse. I could go on about the value of Parfrey’s Glen, not only as a scientific area, a beauty spot and an important attraction in a tourism-driven economy.  But sometimes, I just get tired of putting on my Don Quixote hat and tilting at another windmill.

We have to start thinking of the Baraboo Hills, Devil’s Lake State Park, Parfrey’s Glen, Pewit’s Nest and so on in a new way. We have to realize that with millions of visitors each year and the “Instagraming” of nature, we can’t just sit in our cozy little hideaways and expect problems to solve themselves. We have to be proactive. Get out there!  If I’m blogging about it, you can assume that it’s been this way for a while.

Who remembers the case of Casey Nocket who in 2016, pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of defiling rock formations with graffiti in seven national parks? (And this is only one case in hundreds around the country) In the end, she had to pay restitution, do community service and was banned from the parks for 2 years. But the important thing here is that citizens had to be so angered by graffiti in the parks, that they wanted to stop it. In the case of Ms. Nocket, she faced a huge public outcry and in the end, Reddit was an important element in catching her. But what’s more, the NPS was also proactive. They didn’t simply have rules on the books, but they cared enough to do what it took to get the word out, work with everyone involved and enforce the laws.

Of course, the blame for this damage goes to the vandals. But it also must be pointed out that unlike these national park cases, ours isn’t just one act in this location, but many, many acts of vandalism stacked upon the same rocks and cliffs of the glen without response. Because there is no blowback or official response, it simply continues and grows.

Look, every one of us has a part to play. When we visit natural areas we need to respect them. When you see someone trashing our parks and natural areas, you need to contact the authorities. (Taking the issue into your own hands on the spot is never safe!) But really, potential vandals have to actually think there IS an authority, a rule, a repercussion. Rangers and wardens have to be visible during peak times at our busiest locations. They also have to be willing to write tickets and levy fines when people trash our parks. The authorities have to prioritize care over profit. As we keep having to say, these are OUR public lands and most of us want our parks to be beautiful natural escapes. That’s what we’re paying those (soon to increase) fees for.
Graffiti carved into rock

The thing is, when it comes to Parfrey’s Glen and many other natural areas, I feel we’ve become accustomed to a new “normal”.  We’re numb. We hardly notice the degradation that has accelerated in the last decade or so. This blindness to gradual change is a very human behavior and one we must strive to overcome. This graffiti should be a wake-up call. On our list of priorities, finding more parking cannot be more important than the preservation of the stuff folks are parking to see. Doesn’t that make sense?

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More Graffiti on a Rock Wall

More Graffiti on a Rock Wall

**Just a reminder, is owned by Skillet Creek Media and is not associated with the Wisconsin DNR in any way. My opinions do not represent those of the park or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


  1. mary

    I fully understand ,”graffiti,” usually is a problem..I have not seen ,”what,” graffiti was done,,other then this pic,,,,,which looks like a bunch a scratches,crap…However,,,there is historical graffiti over at Roche-cri that needs to represented the people of a time long gone by,,,,If any of this graffiti,,,,would be of future historical contents,,,ie,,Templars crosses,,,,Indian,,,or a sign of the times,,,heck even the cross of Jesus in Bethlehem just revealed last year behind a old stone church wall,was during his time deemed ,”graffiti,” so,. IF,, the graffiti represents our history in some way,,,it should stay,,,,,if it just a bunch of scratches…no artistic beauty,,or events in our history,,,,it need to go and be stopped,,,fyi,,,maryw

  2. Author

    I don’t think anyone confuses “graffiti” with Native American petroglyphs. I’m sure there will always be some justification of graffiti by pointing out historical graffiti that has now become valued. The case of Casey Nocket certainly brought out all of these arguments as well. She was after all an “artist”, so some felt she had a right to vandalize in the name of her art.

    1. mary

      I have no idea who that lady is u speak of,,,,my point was,,,historic in nature,,,What I can see,,via the pic,,,is NOT,, historic in nature,,,Over at Roche A Cri,,we have the dates carved into a limestone wall,,,dates of 1869,,73,,etc,,,,I was from riders on horse back,,a long time ago,,,As a person reading those dates now,,in 2018,,,it make one think of what life was like back then,,,jmo,,maryw

  3. Kathleen Anderson

    For those who love nature, art, books & sciences this was a perfect article to read today. Thank you for posting! Perhaps more publicity on laws of graffiti posted in the parks and other places with stiffer penalties. The parks are for all to enjoy not misuse. Parents need to teach children by example to do their part to preserve for future generations.

  4. Laurie Hoeksema

    Leave no trace. Unfortunately, we will never be rid of vandals. Most of us do love and respect the park(s). I’ve picked up trash that pigs have left behind. Even one time put out a small abandoned fire. It takes a village and all that. Need to all work together. Thank you for this beautifully written post. It’s a good reminder of how precious our parks are.

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