An iconic natural arch near Moab, Utah, was vandalized last week, and photographs widely shared on social media have brought an Idaho Falls family and its business under scrutiny for the incident.
The incident sparked nationwide outrage on social media platforms, where many identified the family based on photographs of the couple posing in front of graffiti etched into Corona Arch.
Pictures of Ryan Andersen, owner of Andersen Hitches, and his wife Jennifer, along with three children whose faces were obscured, posing in front of graffiti scratched into the arch have been shared widely on a host of social media platforms. Sites reviewing Andersen’s company have been slammed with comments accusing the owners of vandalizing the arch and calling for boycotts.
On Thursday, a message from Ryan Andersen appeared on the website https://ryan-andersen.org/. The website features a letter in which Andersen apologized for his actions and expressed embarrassment.
“While hiking in the Moab area with my family, I drew with a sandstone shard, a heart with my and my wife’s initials and the year above it,” the statement read. “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.”
To read the letter in its entirety, click here.
Brad Kendrick, a former Ammon real estate developer who said he had purchased trailer hitches from Ryan Andersen in the past, contacted the Post Register about the incident after he saw pictures on social media of the couple posing in front of the vandalism.
“I recognized him the minute I saw his picture,” Kendrick said. “I thought, ‘He can’t just do that to a national monument.’”
(While the Corona Arch has widely been described either as within a national monument or a national park on social media, it is in fact on Bureau of Land Management land.)
The graffiti in question include the lines “18” — likely a reference to the current year — and the initials “R” and “J” with a heart drawn between them. They were scratched into the base of the arch, in an area that features prominently in most nature photographs of the area.
Lisa Bryant, spokeswoman of the Canyon Country District of the Bureau of Land Management confirmed by phone that an incident of vandalism had occurred at Corona Arch, and that the agency is investigating the incident.
“The BLM appreciates people stepping forward to report illegal or unauthorized activities on public lands; because this is an active investigation, no more details about the incident at Corona Arch are available at this time,” Bryant said in a statement.
Federal law makes it a federal Class A misdemeanor to “willfully deface, disturb, remove or destroy any personal property, or structures, or any scientific, cultural, archaeological or historic resource, natural object or area” on public lands. The maximum penalty for such a violation is a $100,000 fine and one year in prison.
“As always, the BLM asks visitors to be good land stewards, to help keep America’s public lands beautiful and strong by practicing responsible recreation and ‘leave no trace’ ethics,” said BLM Moab Field Manager Christina Price.