Garden of Gods signs vandalized as staffers try to manage visitors

The chiselers hit hard this spring at Colorado Springs’ famous Garden of the Gods red sandstone park, grinding out the “s” letters in “Gods” on rock signs — the latest challenge as natural park staffers struggle to prevent degradation with 4 million visitors in 2022.

Colorado Springs police on Friday confirmed they’re investigating the latest vandalism which, on April 27, targeted two new etched rock entryway signs.

“This time they really carved in deep, adding pockmarks ….. It is frustrating. We see this routinely, not just in vandalism but in comments on social media,” said Bret Tennis, administrator of this 1,338-acre park for 17 years. “Some people just have a problem with the ‘s.’ Their shared thought is that there is only one god and that it is blasphemous to use the ‘s’ ”

A 1909 charter that gave the Garden of the Gods to the city for public use specified that it always must be named the Garden of the Gods. Heavily promoted by state and local tourism officials, the park now receives more than 4 million visitors a year, many of them driving through in cars except on four days a year designated to be “motorless.” This has led to traffic jams, air pollution and noise that hurts wildlife, which in relatively quiet times includes owls and bighorn sheep.

No suspects have been identified, Colorado Springs police spokesman Robert Tornabene said Friday. One of the rocks signs defaced in April had just been installed following road work at the main entrance to the park by a Visitor and Nature Center.

Replacing damaged signs drains funds that otherwise might be devoted to efforts to minimize impacts, officials said, such as experimenting with electric shuttle buses and other possibilities for reducing traffic and noise.

City officials on Friday appealed to the public for help identifying vandals.

“People from all over the world come to Garden of the Gods and want to take their photo by the famous sandstone entrance sign, a signature feature of this internationally acclaimed park,” city cultural services manager Matt Mayberry said. “Our parks department works hard to preserve our natural and cultural resources for everyone to enjoy. We are disappointed and disheartened by the vandalism.”

Anybody with information is asked to contact the police investigators at 719-444-7000.

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