Vanessa Hudgens pays $1,000 for carving name on rock on federal land
Flagstaff, Ariz. — Actress Vanessa Hudgens has paid $1,000 in restitution for carving a heart into a red rock wall during a trip to Sedona, Arizona.
Hudgens posted a photo of the carving bearing the names "Vanessa" and "Austin" on her Instagram page around Valentine's Day, along with other photos of the couple amid towering red rocks that draw throngs of tourists to northern Arizona.
The payment resolves a citation issued to Hudgens on a misdemeanor count of damaging a natural feature on U.S. Forest Service land. The money was used by a volunteer group called Friends of the Forest to restore the rock wall, which typically is done by scrubbing or sanding the rock.
A federal magistrate in Flagstaff approved the agreement April 19, but it was not made public. The Associated Press obtained a statement of probable cause and the agreement resolving the citation from the federal judiciary under a records request.
A publicist for Hudgens did not immediately respond to a message left Friday. Hudgens is best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the "High School Musical" TV-movie franchise.
Hudgens admitted to using a rock to scratch the names inside the heart and gave authorities information on where to find it. Volunteers and Forest Service employees found the 1-by-1-foot heart matching the description around Feb. 23 on a geologic formation known as Bell Rock.
Forest officials rarely find out who is responsible for vandalizing rock walls, but Hudgens celebrity status played a huge role, Coconino National Forest Service spokesman Brady Smith said.
Hudgens' followers on Instagram alerted the media, and authorities took note of the news coverage. The photo of the carving quickly was removed from her page.
"She was caught in the act because she publicized it and she's famous," Smith said. "I'm sure there are others who are not famous and publicized it and we've never known."
Smith said carvings destroy the natural beauty of the area and create the perception among the public that it's OK to deface rock walls. Damaging a natural feature is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Jennifer Young, president of Friends of the Forest said about 10 to 15 volunteers responding to reports of vandalism set out in the Red Rock Ranger District every other week in search of reported graffiti and use wire brushes, sandpaper and a specialized drill to clean it up.
"Unfortunately, there's a lot that happens," she said.
Hudgens isn't the first to leave her mark and post it on social media.
The Park Service said in 2014 that Casey Nocket, a 21-year-old self-styled artist from New York, was a suspect in vandalism cases spanning eight units of the United States National Park system.
“The case has not been resolved and is still open,” a National Park Service spokesman said.
Nocket had posted photos of her drawings and paintings, as well as photos of herself in several national parks on social media.
The images were scrubbed soon after the investigation was announced.
Images believed connected to Nocket were found in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; Zion and Canyonlands national parks in Utah; Yosemite, Death Valley and Joshua Tree national parks in California; and Crater Lake National Park in Oregon.