Utah State Park Visitors are reportedly vandalizing sandstone that features dinosaur tracks – potentially erasing millions of years of history.
Josh Hansen, a Utah State Park manager, told the Salt Lake Tribune that he had pulled up in his patrol boat only to find a child throwing huge chunks of sandstone into the water. This might not be a concern normally, but Hansen quickly noticed that this sandstone had partial dinosaur tracks – an important part of history that was being quickly discarded.
Around 200 million years ago, 8-foot-tall dinosaurs made their way through the terrain in what is now northeastern Utah – leaving behind dinosaur tracks that we see evidence of to this day. While the dinosaur tracks do not qualify as fossils they do have the same sort of protections and people can be charged with a felony for damaging them. Hansen is still working to preserve these connections to Utah’s prehistoric past.
Unfortunately, it seems like visitors in the park are trying to work against him with the area in which these dinosaur tracks are found having been heavily vandalized within the past few months. Visitors have been chipping off rocks – just like that one child – and throwing them into the water, throwing away with it a valuable piece of the park’s past.
“It’s become quite a big problem,” said Utah Division of State Parks spokesman Devan Chavez. “They’re just looking to throw rocks off the side. What they don’t realize is these rocks they’re picking up, they’re covered in dinosaur tracks.”
The rocks then sink to the bottom of the reservoir, with many likely never to be found again.
In order to address the vandalism of the area and the loss of these dinosaur tracks, the Red Fleet State Park is currently considering sending a diving team underwater in order to retrieve the sandstone that is still intact, but there’s no denying that there are a significant amount of tracks that are lost forever.
While the area that surrounds the reservoir is now a desert, it was once a bog filled with mud and moss – an area where the dilophosaurus, a part of the raptor family, would ambush other dinosaurs. It’s likely that the dinosaur tracks discovered in the state park are from the dilophosaurus, with their weighty impressions later being preserved in stone.
While no charges for the destruction of the dinosaur tracks have been filed thus far, that may soon change.
“We’re going to be cracking down on it a lot more,” Chavez said.
At this point in time, there are still a significant amount of dinosaur tracks that are visible when walking through the landscape, but Chavez estimates that at least 10 of the larger and more visible footprints have disappeared in the last six months – largely due to vandalism of the area.
While vandalism of the dinosaur tracks is definitely an issue, vandalism in general is a large problem throughout the state. Tourists carve their name into redrock arches with no regard for the landscape, and some even go so far as to spray their name on canyon walls. It’s a real issue that the rangers are hoping to address in some way moving forward.
Hansen warns visitors of the dangerous impact that this sort of damage can have on the states paleontological history,
“If we don’t preserve it,” he said, “there won’t be much left.”
Hopefully, with more stringent enforcement of the rules regarding the destruction of dinosaur tracks moving forward, we will see some of these important marks of long-extinct dinosaurs preserved. Otherwise, it’s likely that this particular area will be washed clean of what it once was – becoming a simple tourist attraction rather than a deep connection to nature and to history.