A 20-year-old man from Bullhead City, Arizona, who is suspected of vandalizing petroglyphs at Grapevine Canyon in Lake Mead National Recreation Area was cited by park rangers last week. He and a 13-year-old boy were reported to have been shooting paintballs in the area.
At least four petroglyph panels and numerous rock faces were defaced with paint. The National Park Service is coordinating clean up of the site with area tribes.
“This area in particular is incredibly sensitive and sacred to the Native American tribes of the Lower Colorado River. It’s unimaginable to think of someone having a paintball fight in the Sistine Chapel; however from the perspective of local tribal members that’s what happened here,” said Rosie Pepito, chief of cultural resource management for Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Park rangers responded to the area on March 19 after a caller to Bullhead City 911 reported that there were kids in the canyon shooting paintballs. Rangers contacted the man at the Grapevine Canyon trailhead parking lot, and a preliminary investigation lead them to suspect that he was responsible for the red and green paint splatters in the canyon.
The man was issued citations for defacing/disturbing an archeological resource, using and discharging a weapon, littering and vandalism. He was cited and released but will be required to appear before a federal magistrate. His name is being withheld pending filing of formal charges.
Park officials issued a reminder that archeological resources at Lake Mead and all other NPS sites are protected by federal law and regulation. A spokesman noted, "On lands administered by the National Park Service, it is unlawful to excavate, remove, disturb, deface or destroy any historic or prehistoric building, structure, ruin, site, or in-place exhibit, artifact or object, or to collect, appropriate, excavate, damage, disturb or destroy artifacts, pictographs, petroglyphs, objects of antiquity, fossils or scientific specimens."
That's a pretty inclusive list, and protection of these unique resources is important. Criminal penalties for violations can include a year in jail and/or a $100,000 fine. Violators may also be held responsible for restitution and reimbursement of costs associated with site mitigation and restoration.