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Social media helps identify person defacing rock in Deer Creek Canyon Park

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By Deborah Swearingen

Social media helped nab a person accused of carving into a rock in Deer Creek Canyon Park in late May.

Around 2 p.m. May 21, a witness posted a photo of a girl, who is a juvenile and hasn’t been identified, inscribing her name into a rock on the Plymouth Creek Trail at the Jeffco Open Space park.

The Jeffco Sheriff’s Office was tagged in the post and then created a report of the incident. Although two people were in the photo, just one was defacing the rock.

“We used social media to identify the two people in the photo,” said Jenny Fulton, spokeswoman with the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office. “We were able to do that very quickly by responses we had gotten.”

A deputy with the sheriff’s office issued a juvenile promise to appear in lieu of a summons of arrest, and the girl was charged with defacing public property, a misdemeanor offense.

Graffiti does not occur all that often in Jeffco Open Space parks but has serious consequences when it does, said Mary Ann Bonnell, a park ranger and visitor services manager with Jeffco Open Space.

People deface structures such as signage, benches and restrooms, as well as natural resources like trees and rocks.

It is estimated that signs and buildings are tagged approximately once every three to four months, and big graffiti events occur three or four times a year. In regards to natural resources, Bonnell said some Jeffco Open Space parks are worse than others.

Mount Glennon and South Valley Park have had recent occurrences, and Lookout Mountain is a repeat location.

All park rangers carry graffiti kits in their backpacks, which include wipes and sandpaper to help remove the markings.

“In the larger events, it takes much more time and energy,” Bonnell said.

Sometimes a chemical solution is necessary or the park rangers will have to use paint to cover the graffiti. It all depends on what surface has been painted and what material the person used to deface it.

Damaging natural resources can have much larger implications.

“Anytime you carve into a tree, you are basically carving into its defense mechanism,” she said. “Bark is meant to protect a tree. You’re making the tree vulnerable … weakening it.”

There is an aesthetic cost, too. Graffiti can be a distraction, and it can ruin the view for other visitors.

Plus, it takes time and energy away from a park ranger’s everyday duties.

“It really is a colossal waste,” she said. “It’s aesthetically unpleasing, it hurts the resources, and it hurts our facilities and takes time away from other more important things.”

But Bonnell feels good in knowing most regular visitors value Jeffco Open Space and would never consider defacing any of the 29 regional parks.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.