Promposal graffiti in Santa Monica national park not OK, says park official


Today, P-R-O-M is spelled N-O-P-E. 

In a Thursday post on the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area's Facebook page, a park official alerted followers that park rangers had found a prom invitation — or "promposal" — graffitied on the park's public lands. 

"We love hearing about creative promposals, but damaging public lands is not the way to do it," "Ranger Zach" wrote in the post. 

In a phone interview with Mic, "Ranger Zach" — also known as senior communications fellow Zach Behrens — explained why this kind of promposal should not catch on among teens. Graffiti is a problem at many national parks, and it has some serious drawbacks. 

"It's a visual blight in an area that's supposed to be natural," Behrens said. "It takes away from visitors' experiences." 

Even more serious, he said, is how the spray paint can potentially harm nearby ecosystems, including small ones. It can damage lichen or moss on the rock, or even find its way into nearby water systems from which animals might drink. 

While Behrens said one instance of graffiti may not damage an ecosystem, the "recurring problem" of graffiti can build up over time and have damaging effects. 

Behrens also confirmed an odd detail in the original post — this is the second time in two years that the same message has appeared in the same spot, on the same rock, in the same color paint and with similar handwriting. 

Tina Burch/AP

Behrens said that within minutes of posting the graffitied rock on Facebook, rangers found wet spray paint on another nearby landscape. Cleaning up after the graffiti takes time away from a ranger's many duties.

"It takes away from our core missions of dedicating our time to preserving the landscape and maintaining trails and whatnot," he said. 

Behrens encouraged people to propose marriage or "prompose" as much as they want — with one general guideline. 

"As long as it falls within confines of the law," he said. "That's fine."