Wait. that’s illegal?

Don’t go chopping crazy, folks. Defacement of public landmarks or boundary trees isn’t legal in Colorado

More stories from Julia Van Allen

Seeking Solace
May 13, 2019

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but, when I visit a state park, sometimes I want to collect a memento of some sort. Whether that’s taking a picture of some cool monument or landscape, I try not to alter the environment with my presence at the park. Apparently, this isn’t the case with everyone.

In the state of Colorado, it’s illegal to deface property on state property. Meaning, if anyone plans to traverse the city of Boulder and cause some damage to a boulder, they’re gonna get some heat for it.

According to the Colorado Revised Statutes 18-4-508: “(1)  Any person who knowingly cuts, fells, alters, or removes any certain boundary tree knowing such is a boundary tree, monument, or other allowed landmark, to the damage of any person, or any person who intentionally defaces, removes, pulls down, injures, or destroys any location stake, side post, corner post, landmark, or monument, or any other legal land boundary monument in this state, designating or intending to designate the location, boundary, or name of any mining claim, lode, or vein of mineral, or the name of the discoverer or date of discovery thereof, commits a class 2 misdemeanor.”

So what does this mean for a recreational wanderer through a Colorado state park? I’ll repeat a saying that was coined during my tenure as a camp counselor for rambunctious kids: “Leave nature in nature.”

Seems simple enough, right? Leave nature in nature. That’s where it belongs — we shouldn’t disturb it. And public parks are a national treasure that we should treat with respect. We shouldn’t be defacing public parks just for a laugh when there’s the potential for it to cause some serious issues further down the road.

It struck a chord with me that the state of Colorado needed to make legislation about not causing damage to major landmarks and public property. Have people really come this far and made all of these achievements to be pulled back where we started because someone decided to carve their initials into a national park fence?

Now, I feel it necessary to mention that any defacement of public lands is a slippery slope to create disregard for the parks in general. Our national parks hold some of the most venerated monuments and features in the United States. If people start disrespecting the little details of these parks, such as boundary markers and fences and such, who’s to say that more serious defacements aren’t just beyond the horizon?

After digging a little deeper into this law, I found an interesting point of contention that future Colorado landowners need to keep in mind. Under the Colorado Revised Statutes 18-4-508 subsection 2, “(1), C.R.S., even if said person has title to the land on which said monument or accessory is located, commits a class 2 misdemeanor unless, prior to such removal, said person has caused a Colorado professional land surveyor to establish at least two witness corners or reference marks for each such monument or accessory removed and has filed or caused to be filed a monument record pursuant to article 53 of title 38, C.R.S.”

Even if the boundary tree is technically on a private landowner’s property, it is still illegal to deface or damage it knowingly in any way. That tree, as a boundary marker for public land, is protected by the government.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Keep a close eye on what is and isn’t protected by the government by mandate and don’t go swinging any axes without checking first if it’s legal.

Van Allen can be reached at [email protected]