Outraged Hiker Shames Park Vandals on Facebook, Sparks National Hunt
Brett Nelson's photo of three tourists he says were defacing property on May 4th in a state park goes viral.
Hikers, rock climbers, bird-watchers, and folks who want to watch water cascade over a 97-foot-high cliff are frequent visitors at Tumalo Falls Park in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. Allegedly, so are vandals—a whole family of them who etched their names into a railing in the park.
That’s what resident Brett Nelson spotted while trekking through the park, which is about 25 miles west of Bend, last Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Nelson’s savvy use of social media, the faces of the three individuals—a dad and his two children—have been blasted out for the world to see. Given the photographic evidence, the U.S. Forest Service is now on the hunt for them.
A friend of Nelson’s snapped the photo of the trio, and Nelson documented the incident on his Instagram account and Facebook page. “PROUD parent letting children carve names in tumalo falls hand railing,” wrote Nelson on the image's Facebook caption.
In the caption, Nelson described how he asked the “boy on the left are you seriously going to carve your name in that rail... Yup.” Nelson wrote that he asked the father if he knew he was allowing his “kids [to] deface federal public land.” According to Nelson, the daughter in the group replied, “Umm, we can do what we or I want.”
Nelson then asked the dad to “give me your license plate number so I can carve my name in the hood of your car,” and the father told Nelson to go ahead because it was a rental car. The trio told Nelson that they were from California.
“Then I stated - you need to go back to California, Oregonians take huge pride in our land in our public land parks and you are not welcome SHAME ON YOU!!! Taking a picture of the proud Douche-Bag artists and their proud work.!!! Please share I hope he finds himself on channel 6 NEWS!” wrote Nelson.
Sharing the image is what more than 53,000 people have done on Facebook. Commenters on the photo are outraged.
"People that don't respect property that isn't theirs make my blood boil," wrote Facebook user Jennifer Fox. "How do we teach our kids when everyone else is doing it with their parents approval?? Setting an example of respect and courtesy as a parent isn't an easy task with craptastic parents like this giving the thumbs up to his kids in plain view."
People who saw the photo on Facebook also put the vandalism on the radar of the U.S. Forest Service.
"We take this very seriously," Kassidy Kern, public affairs specialist with the Deschutes National Forest, told KTVZ.
"Metal rail or not, this is still considered the property of the United States," said Kern. "Kudos to [Brett Nelson] for bringing this to our attention."
This isn’t the first time park vandals have been busted thanks to social media. Last fall a vandal who went by the name Creepytings was put on blast after Instagrammed graffiti drawings in 10 national parks were discovered on Reddit. In March, a graffiti artist allegedly defaced a boulder at Joshua Tree National Park.
The identities of the three alleged vandals in Oregon haven’t been determined. But Nelson told The Oregonian that he has received thousands of tips. If the trio can be identified, each faces a fine of up to $5,000 or six months in jail.
As for Nelson, he's just glad that so many people care about preserving our national parks.
“I was just doing what was right. It's crazy to see how it has unfolded from a simple post,” he wrote on Monday night in an update on his Facebook page. “Thank you everyone for sharing. Power in numbers voice be heard in this case be Seen by thousands.”
So with all this publicity, it's likely they'll be indentified. What is justice here? Usually local government collects a fine, and goes on. But does that money ever go to fix the railing? Probably not. It goes to pay the lawyers and the judges, and into the city or county's expense account? That doesn't seem like justice either. How big a deal is this? What do you think is fair punishment for etching their names in the railing? Is this intrusion of their privacy, and should we leave it up to law enforcement to "catch" people doing bad things? What do you think about "cameras everywhere" and the ability to catch people "in the act" of harming someone or someone's property.
The Forestry department said they were just happy to hear all the good publicity about how upset people are about vandalism in the parks. It's a good reminder to protect what we have.
What do you think about all this?