Vandalism is an ongoing problem in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and rangers are currently investigating an incident in which a man was reportedly photographed vandalizing a tree.
A hiker along the Gatlinburg Trail snapped photos of a man allegedly using a knife to carve away the bark of a tree. According to Park Ranger Jamie Sanders, the incident is being investigated.
“Walking on the Gatlinburg Trail today and I see this guy chiseling away at a beautiful tree,” the hiker said. “It made me furious, obviously, so I snapped a few pictures of him. He turned around and saw I was taking pictures of him then went right back at it.”
The Gatlinburg Trail begins at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and runs 1.9 miles to the outskirts of the City of Gatlinburg.
This type of vandalism falls under 36 CFR 2.1 (a)(1)(ii). Its a class B misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a fine up to $5,000 and/or 6 months in jail. Depending on the extent of the damage, Rangers can issue a verbal warning, a written warning, a collateral citation of $130, a mandatory citation or arrest the person. The mandatory citation requires the person to appear at a later date before a judge in the Federal Court building in Knoxville. If the person is arrested, they will appear before a Federal Magistrate Judge within 48 hours to be arraigned on the charge.
Sanders says park visitors who encounter vandalism occurring in the park should not interfere, but should report the violation to park dispatch at 865-436-1200.
All persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.