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.
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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**Just a reminder, DevilsLakeStatePark.com 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.