If you have ever gone on a hike or visited a national park chances are you’ve probably spotted initials engraved in a tree trunk, or some other type of unnatural marking from visitors. In fact, there are very few hikes I have been on where I do not see some type of man-made marking that is not meant to be there.
Some do not see an issue with this, but I find it to be a huge problem. The outdoors are supposed to be the one of the places that is as untouched by humans as possible. Engraving messages and drawings on historical canyons are destroying history, and puts unnecessary markings on what is meant to stay natural.
Marjorie Woodruff from High Country News said there are, “4,000-year-old drawings from the Archaic Period,” being drawn on by visitors at Independence Rock in Wyoming. Putting it into a 4,000-year perspective, your initials no longer seem so important, do they?
Some may argue that someone writing on a rock 4,000 years ago compared to today is the same action taking place, but they are very different. Someone discovering a place years ago and writing a message to other human beings is much different than writing your initials to just show you were there.
Today, we have technology such as cell phones and cameras; there are plenty of other means to document that you have been to a location. These sorts of technologies were not always available, and creating messages through nature was basically a history book in past time periods.
The purpose of creating National Parks is to allow us to preserve and view all of their historical inscriptions and the natural phenomena of Mother Nature. Yes, history is always in the making, but to put your initials somewhere at the Grand Canyon, for example, isn’t helping anyone discover anything, nor is it important to anyone else who visits the Grand Canyon.
“I obviously think that graffiti in national places is a horrible thing because it detracts from the experience that all subsequent people going to that place have. I think one interesting point is that all of the rock art the Native Americans drew and inscriptions from early explorers are basically just graffiti, but those are really cool to us,” Nick Wright, a student and member of the Colorado Mesa University Outdoor Program, said.
It comes down to the meaning. When it was the only communication or way to let someone know that a place had been inhabited, these messages had depth. In present day, leaving initials, phrases and phone numbers is a bit pointless. There is no equivalency in the meaning behind the two scenarios in different time periods.
I think it is important to just take a step back and understand the significance of nature, especially historical sites, and know that marking them is not a needed action in this day and age.
“The difference between the graffiti now and the graffiti then is that it was meaningful then, and it’s pretty not meaningful now,” Wright said.