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Social media fuels graffiti vandalism at popular national park

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(CNN) — Hundreds of acres of winding trails and giant boulders are closed at a popular site in Joshua Tree National Park. And social media is playing a role.

The California park is battling an outbreak of graffiti splashed across its vast rock formations.

Vandals are posting pictures of their graffiti on social media sites, according to officials, making the illegal handiwork more popular and exacerbating the problem.

“Oatmeal cookie,” some of the graffiti reads. “Little nature boy.”

To limit the impact of vandalism on historic sites, park rangers closed 308 acres of Rattlesnake Canyon until the end of the month, citing the escalating problem.

“Since January, individuals have defaced the day-use and canyon area of Rattlesnake Canyon with graffiti,” the park said in a statement.

“While this started as a few markings, social media posts appear to have sparked numerous individuals’ interest in adding to the vandalism of this scenic canyon. The continued malicious desecration of Joshua Tree National Park has now affected archeological sites.”

During the closure, park officials will review and work to correct the damage to the areas affected.

The closed canyon features massive rock formations and rugged desert trails.

Earlier this year, park officials also closed access to the historic Barker Dam, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, after vandals scrawled a series of writings on the landmark wall.

If found guilty of defacing government property, vandals face a $5,000 fine and up to six months imprisonment.

Joshua Tree National Park comprises about 800,000 acres.

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