They might look pretty, but the painted rocks being left behind at many natural sites across Texas aren’t welcome, according to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in a Facebook post that elicited strong reactions from subsequent commenters.
Leaving the rocks is a violation of the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles that Texas Parks & Wildlife, like the other parks departments across the country, follow as a way to preserve the natural outdoors on state or federally owned lands, keeping it largely free from human influence and interference. The painted rocks contribute a human element.
“Texas State Parks have been established to protect special places,” the department wrote in response to a woman in the comments of the original post. “Leaving modern painted rocks in the view of visitors to these beautiful and special parts of our state changes the view, changes the experience for the visitors, and makes it a little harder for some people to enjoy their stay in nature.”
Plus, plants and wildlife may get damaged or disturbed when people are “hiding rocks off the trail.”
Texas Parks & Wildlife made the latter points when responding to the woman who wrote on the Facebook post that she didn’t understand why the rocks would be harming the area. Others responded in kind, noting that the rocks have been a way to get kids away from technology and into nature, doing something creative and community-oriented with their time.
But the department has a solution for that — partaking in one of the many arts and crafts events at a range of state parks. You’ll be outdoors and still stimulating your creative side.
For people tempted to leave painted rocks at state and national parks, the government now has the extreme case of a San Diego woman last year to give as a deterrent. She was arrested on federal charges for defacing rocks in seven national parks, calling her act art but ultimately pleading guilty. As a result, she is now banned from all national parks and federally administered land, which total more than one-fifth of the U.S.
In Texas, “it is an offense for any person to take, remove, destroy, deface, tamper with, or disturb any rock, earth, soil, gem, mineral, fossil, or other geological deposit except by permit issued by the director,” according to the state’s administrative code.