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Would-be couples sought for making their mark in Laurel Ridge State Park

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 12:36 p.m.

Park rangers are searching for apparent lovebirds who allegedly spray-painted a large rock formation at Laurel Ridge State Park.

In neat, white lettering, the graffiti reads “Jason (loves) Janel 2013” and “Sean (loves) Christi 2013.”

“It was the name of two would-be couples,” said Mike Mumau, park operations manager.

“That's basically what we found on a pretty impressive rock formation.”

Mumau estimates the rocks were painted within the last month. A hiker along the Laurel Highlands Trail spotted the graffiti and alerted park officials.

“People who care about the trail and the outdoors, when they see something like this, they're pretty disgusted,” Mumau said.

The 70-mile-long Laurel Highlands Trail, which traces the line between Somerset and Westmoreland counties, links Ohiopyle and the Conemaugh Gorge.

It's part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

Every year, between 80,000 and 100,000 hikers, backpackers and trail runners visit the trail, Mumau estimated.

The hiking trail runs next to the large, free-standing rock formation, which is so big that Mumau said he refers to it as “battleship.”

“It's really pretty and has obviously been defaced by this,” Mumau said.

“These are very special places where people are able to experience nature on its terms and not the other way around.”

Park officials have “zero tolerance” for vandalism and take protection of natural resources seriously, Mumau said.

Such incidents occur from time to time, he said, but it's not common these days to see names carved into trees or rocks doused in spray paint.

Removing the paint would be “very expensive and time-consuming,” Mumau said, but the owner of a specialized cleaning company has volunteered to clean the rock for free.

Park rangers are following a few leads and continue to look for information about the suspect or suspects, who would face charges, Mumau said.

A reward is being offered for information leading to successful prosecution.

Anyone with information can call the park office at 814-445-7725. Callers can remain anonymous.

Rossilynne Skena is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or rskena@tribweb.com.

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