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Idaho Falls Family In Hot Water Over Rock Arch Graffiti

Jessica Petersen
Corona Arch, near Moab, Utah, was recently defaced. An Idaho Falls man posted a smiling photo of his family standing next to the graffiti online and has received national condemnation.

A family in eastern Idaho is coming under fire for defacing a natural rock arch near Moab, Utah. The graffiti came to light after a post on social media.

Corona Arch is a sandstone feature west of Moab that’s between Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park. Photos posted online show Ryan Andersen and his family standing in front of the iconic geologic feature with the number 18 etched into the rock and the letters “R” and “J” with a heart between them.

Andersen released a statement Thursday afternoon admitting to carving the message into the rock face.

"At that moment, I foolishly thought I was conveying my love for my wife when, in fact, I was tarnishing the experience for others who also want to enjoy magnificent scenery. My actions were wrong. I am extremely sorry for my conduct. I acted in the spur of the moment and did not stop to think about what I was doing," the statement says.

The Idaho Falls businessman, who owns Andersen Hitches in Idaho Falls, is facing scrutiny from across the nation for reportedly defacing the arch.

One of his customers spotted a photo of the vandalism online and sounded the alarm.

“We do have incidents of graffiti and vandalism,” says Lisa Bryant, who’s with the Bureau of Land Management in Moab. “That does seem to be on the rise just with the increase in visitation.”

Bryant says over 2.8 million people visit the geologically rich area around Moab annually. She stresses that the vast majority of people are good stewards of the land.

A crew of specialists will be sent to Corona Arch to remove the graffiti.

“We can probably either sand or carve the information out,” Bryant says. “It will leave a mark on the rock.”

In the statement, Andersen says he will pay for the BLM to restore the damage and work with the government to try and prevent similar incidents. The investigation remains ongoing.

Bryant says willfully defacing these rocks is a federal misdemeanor and is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

For more local news, follow the KBSX newsroom on Twitter @KBSX915

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