ST. GEORGE Bureau of Land Management officials are hoping a $500 reward will entice someone to come forward and tell what they know about recent vandalism at a popular rock-art site near St. George.
"I can almost guarantee you that it was teenagers partying at night when nobody's around," said Dawna Ferris-Rowley, assistant manager with the BLM's field office in St. George. "This area is very accessible and easy terrain, just west of the cities of Santa Clara and Ivins. It's pretty impossible to protect it all the time."
The vandalism is believed to have occurred in the past month. The damage includes the names Ty, Thomas, Linda 2006, Shanna, and the words Brittney (heart drawing) Steve encircled by another heart shape about 12-inches tall.
Damage to the rock-art site can't be permanently repaired, although a professional rock-art conservator will be hired to "inpaint" the scratched areas, Ferris-Rowley said. The rock art was made by Anasazi people, and some of it is about 5,000 years old.
The damage was discovered by a BLM site steward and students from Brigham Young University who are working at an archaeological field camp in the area, said Ferris-Rowley.
The rock-art area, known as Land Hill, is part of the Santa Clara River Reserve that includes 6,500 acres of public land. A collaborative agreement between the BLM, Santa Clara and Ivins was reached last year to help manage the property and its more than 150 archaeological sites.
A newly approved recreation and open-space management plan for the Santa Clara River Reserve should provide some protection to the area, Ferris-Rowley said. The BLM is also putting up trail signs so people know where they can and can't go.
"We've got some pretty creative roads in the area that are unauthorized," she said. "The last time juveniles were caught vandalizing rock art they tried to claim they didn't know they were on public land."
Earlier this year five teens were ordered by a judge to pay $7,500 in restitution after pleading guilty to third-degree felony charges for vandalizing a petroglyph on Land Hill. The juveniles were charged under Utah's Cultural Sites Protection Act.