Graffiti

in the

Shawnee National Forest

is not a New Trend!

Disclaimer: This in an opinion piece that others may agree with. I respect your opinion the same even if I may not agree with it. I am writing this article in response to suggestive statements and speculations that my content may be advertising these places for vandals to find. Even if those statements were never intended against me or my brand, I still feel this issue needs to be addressed.

There have been recent reports of recent graffiti done in the Shawnee here lately. The graffiti has been done at special places like Natural Areas and other areas not previous promoted in the past. I’m not going to name the areas sue to ongoing investigations. But plenty of social media jabber as well as publications are suggestive that we shouldn’t share information about some areas of public land to the public. It appears to assume that recent promotions of such information are the cause of the vandalism. Take note, I am in no way supporting graffiti – it IS vandalism and I denounce it officially. We should do our best to keep natural things as natural as possible but without restricting public access as best as we can.

 

There is nothing new about Graffiti in the Shawnee

You don’t believe me? Go to these hidden areas and look at the rocks, especially where shelters are. There will either carvings or painted graffiti dating from the 1800s all the way to the early 1990s – yes, long before social media was ever thought about. Also, look at the beech trees. Carving all over them from periods before the internet even occurred widespread. You cannot logically say that carving a tree is different than graffiti on a rock. The difference between the two? You can wash a rock in most cases, but you can’t wash carvings off a tree. The graffiti on trees has occurred for so long that no one is talking about it anymore. And some might say, there are too many beech species and that preserving them isn’t critical. Okay, that’s fine but does not give the right to carve on things on public lands? Nope… It is the same thing as spray painting and its been around for ages.

 

Social Media is likely not causing these crimes

Carving and graffiti has been occurring widespread in nature since before the internet was widely available to the public. If anything, social media, and the internet is just making us more aware of the fact that it is already occurring. There are many so called “hidden gems” in the National Forest and even the state parks that have been tagged during previous periods long before social media existed. Fountain Bluff is a good example of that. Public land is public land, the same emphasis of protection and crime prevention should be placed on the popular areas just as much as the not so popular areas. It will cost taxpayers in the end (in some magnitude) no matter where it happens. Public land is public land – all of it deserves the same protection against vandalism. Like with the evolution of general media, social media just allows others to get the word out quicker. If we didn’t have social media, graffiti and vandalism would continue to occur but we wouldn’t know about it as much.

 

Don’t ignore the real problems – trash!

The biggest problem facing our public lands today is trash. But its not just public land. Take any interstate exit and look at the ground. Walk through a park after an event. Litter isn’t a Shawnee problem, it’s a southern Illinois problem. And we can get on the internet and gripe all we want but until physical, legal, or correction action occurs – the littering will keep occurring. Articles aren’t helping. Official signs aren’t helping. Outcries on social media? Nope, not helping. Blaming people for sharing information? Still, not fixing the problem. Until action, appropriate action is taken, this issue will continue. This is why I always promote when me and Michelle clean up trash. I’m not bragging, I’m trying to create a trend. The laws are not being enforced – so let’s clean it up ourselves and be vigilant about it, be public about it, so that we can do ACTION rather than say something on the internet and blame others who never did it in the first place.

 

Forest Service at Fault? IDNR at Fault? Nope…

Before we attempt to put any blame on the Forest Service or DNR, we need to put ourselves in their shoes. Really, their very worn out shoes! I say that because their budget continues to disappear. Their employee openings continue to tighten up. Their ability to do their jobs effectively continue to be restricted. Twenty or thirty years ago, Forest Service had a nice big budget to do a lot of things. Its [budget] been butchered over the years to a point to where they’re barely hanging out. A recent budget from the previous administration will be used for all the back maintenance that has been on the waiting list for years. It’s not their fault – quit blaming them! Forest Service and DNR are underbudgeted because of federal and state administrations that put them there. If you want to scream at someone, scream at who you vote for because they’re aiding these decisions. Forest Service for example has 2 or 3 law enforcement officers for 280,000-acres of land that is scattered. You can’t logically blame them for not being able to enforce the rules everywhere in the forest, but you can blame the policymakers, because that’s where the blame is!

 

The trash issue is way worse than the graffiti issue but it’s all equally bad

But what do we do about it?

  1. We can quit promoting videos, photos (photos are just as bad as videos), articles, and social discussions about public lands to the public. We can just reserve the special places for people in the know. I would never support that – it is a definition of discrimination in my opinion. The “good ole boy groups” of nature should be stomped on until there is nothing left. It’s bad for public lands. It’s bad for America.
  2. We can try to promote good tactics and responsible recreation in our content and make it a habit and we can call out people when they do wrong. I’ve always preached Leave No Trace, Recreate Responsibly and Pack Out What You Pack In + What else you find that doesn’t belong.
  3. We can demand our policymakers act against the vandalism. Criminals should be prosecuted. Someone who knows someone shouldn’t get out of a ticket or an arrest if they have committed a crime.
  4. We can, as a community, clean up areas together or even volunteer with organizations like Friends of the Shawnee National Forest and Southern Illinois CLEAN. Other organization, businesses and townships could actively get involved. Trash services could donate dumpsters for the common good of helping their public lands. And then we can blast that all over social media and actually use it positively for once rather than blame and no action.
  5. Or we can keep blaming people and social media and let the offenses build up. A good way for nothing to ever happen is to do nothing at all.

 

And that’s all I have to say about this issue. I don’t make my videos and content to invite vandals. I believe the majority of the audience of Hiking with Shawn is good people and if you are trying to say they’re the ones hurting nature – I’m here to defend them and call you out! Don’t mess with my people, if you do, you’re messing with me!

A message for everyone here… We’re in such a divided world (not just country) that no one wants to work together anymore. We have to change this, folks. For the sake of our species, we must change. We can do this little at a time on issues like this and others. We have to work together, not against each other, or the outcome will never be a success.

I’m not blaming anyone with this article because its hard to blame people for something that has been occurring long before they came into the picture…

P.s. Don’t graffiti, don’t litter, and don’t carve – let’s keep nature as natural as it can be so the generations after us can enjoy it too. Folks, the love for outdoors is ever so increasing and while people want to gripe and cry about that fact, the real fact is more people are taking interest and that means more people will be willing to spend money on public lands, protect public lands, and vote in favor of those who favor public lands. Don’t ruin that!

 

WAIT! EAGLE MOUNTAIN!

I said in a Facebook post that if you want something to piss you off more than anything is to take a drive-up Eagle Mountain Road near Equality. Now is the time to do it with all the leaves and undergrowth down. Check out the trash and destruction… It’s been there for years before Facebook was even thought up, YEARS! Why is it still there? Why aren’t there Facebook posts about it? I’m CHALLENGING YOU! ALL OF YOU! Let’s form up as a team, as a community and let’s clean up Eagle Mountain! People, organizations, agencies, NPOs, federal and state government, dumpster providers, local businesses, local townships – I’m calling on you to join and let’s create a cause and event to clean that place up and make it one of the best looking areas of the Shawnee Forest Country. I dare you to act rather than post about it on social media. We all need to act, yes me included!

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

SHAWN GOSSMAN

SHAWN GOSSMAN

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. I hope you enjoy my website and I encourage you to interact with me!

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