It doesn’t matter how in love you are, scratching romantic sweet-nothings into a federally-protected feature inside a national park is illegal. Even if you’re actress Vanessa Hudgens.
The actress and her main squeeze, Austin Butler, allegedly celebrated their love and Valentine’s Day by defacing one of the Sedona, Arizona, area’s “precious red rocks,” AZ Central reported.
Vanessa, who recently starred in the live TV version of Grease, could face some stiff punishment and fines for the alleged act. A Coconino National Forest public affairs officer told Entertainment Tonight that an investigation into Vanessa’s behavior is ongoing and will continue for as “long as it takes.”
“Carving of any kind affects the natural beauty of the area and it is something that is prohibited under Title 36 of CFR 261.9 (a) ‘Damaging any natural feature or other property of the United States,’ ” the officer told Page Six.
Hudgens’ biggest mistake? Posting physical proof of her alleged crime online.
Actress posts on Instagram what appears to be their names carved into Sedona's red rocks.— Phanendra Deka (@DhrubRaaj) February 17, 2016
Vanessa, 27, and her 24-year-old boyfriend visited the Coconino National Forest over Valentine’s Day weekend; the forest service manages the land around Sedona, which is famous for its beautiful towering red rocks, the Associated Press reported.
As celebrities and young people are wont to do, Hudgens splashed her Instagram feed with photos of the romantic trip, featuring portraits of herself and selfies with Austin — they’ve been dating since 2011. Most of these photos captured the park’s natural beauty, captioned “sedonadreams,” the New York Daily News states.
But one picture stood out: a misshapen heart, permanently scratched into one of those famous red rocks, and inside, the words “Austin + Vanessa.” It was captioned “Happy Valentine’s Day boo boo bears.”
Many people who followed Vanessa’s Instagram feed were ticked enough at the sight to call park officials. Hudgens quickly deleted the incriminating picture, but not before multiple people called the Red Rock Ranger District.
The AP reported that the media tattled on Hudgens.
“Officials at the Coconino National Forest became aware of the incident [Monday] when the media alerted them of the situation,” said the public affairs officer. “There is no deadline for this investigation — it takes as long as it takes.”
Officials are now looking for the defaced rock among the forest’s 250 square mile Red Rock. They’ll use photos, tips, and witness accounts to track down the rock Vanessa allegedly defaced in the name of love, and she better hope they don’t find it — the actress could end up in jail.
By defacing a Sedona red rock, Vanessa committed a federal crime and a misdemeanor. That red rock was a protected natural feature of a national park, and that means she could end up shelling out $5,000 in fines and spending six months in jail.
In Hudgens’ defense, there are no signs posted telling people they shouldn’t permanently ruin a rare geological feature or mar the natural beauty of protected land. And, sadly, this kind of behavior happens all the time. Forest spokesman Brady Smith said “people make mistakes whether knowingly or unknowingly,” which is not justification for illegal activity.
Hudgens’ alleged actions may only make it worse, the public affairs office noted, according to Radar Online.
“The issue of people carving their names and other things in rocks in the Sedona and surrounding area is always a challenge we face and try to educate people about. We have found that when one person carves something, it encourages others to carve.”
Hudgens hasn’t responded to media requests for comment on the controversy. She is most famous for her role as Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical television show and movie.
[Photo by SnelsonStock/Shutterstock]