Vandals have struck again in Joshua Tree National Park.
Officials from the park report that rocks and walls at the popular Rattlesnake Canyon were spray painted and damaged. They've closed a 308-acre canyon area temporarily to prevent more damage.
Vandalism in Joshua Tree is unfortunately not a new issue. The Barker Dam area was closed due to carved graffiti vandalism in February of this year, and park officials say it has been an ongoing problem that has been getting worse.
"I've been here five years and it's certainly the worse I've seen it in the time that I've been here," said Mark Butler, park superintendent at Joshua Tree National Park. "We're asking the public to be aware when they're visiting the park to be aware of their surroundings, if they observe any damage or any vandalism to report it immediately to one of the park staff, at one of our entrance stations or one of our visitor centers."
According to a report in the San Bernardino Sun, vandals had been spreading word of the graffiti via social media, likely spurring others to add their mark to the area. Some archaeologically significant areas have also been defaced.
Those who violate the closure are are caught adding to the graffiti can be fined a maximum of $5,000 with six months in jail, plus three years probation.
The Rattlesnake Canyon area will remain closed until April 30, so park officials and law enforcement personnel can decide how to clean up the damaged area and prevent future vandalism.