Man pays fine for scratching graffiti into Utah’s Corona Arch, says he hopes ‘others can learn from my mistakes’

Jessica Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune Corona Arch trail in Moab, Utah.

An Idaho man will have to cough up cash and endure some public humiliation after pleading guilty to scratching graffiti into southern Utah’s Corona Arch.

Ryan Bird Andersen, 45, has reached an agreement and pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of defacing a natural feature, U.S. Attorney for Utah John W. Huber’s office announced Friday.

Andersen has agreed to pay the maximum fine of $1,000, as well as $858.32 in restitution to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the arch formation near Moab, and a $30 processing fee.

The Idaho Falls man also made a public statement to apologize and take responsibility for his actions.

“Although I have resolved my case with the government, I will remain committed to helping ensure that our public lands remain pristine,” Andersen wrote. “In the future, I hope that others can learn from my mistakes and always act responsibly with our natural resources.”

Andersen had been vacationing with his family at Corona Arch last March, when he scratched a heart, along with his and his wife’s initials, in the rock. According to FOX 13, Andersen apologized online after a photo of the family at the graffiti site made the rounds on social media, and people started posting negative comments about his family business.

Andersen’s guilty plea will be held in abeyance for 18 months. In that time, Andersen is barred from entering or using any federally managed public land, except for necessary travel.

Huber said Andersen’s actions were “troubling to us and anyone who values Utah’s beautiful public lands. People travel from around the world to visit these spectacular resources. Mr. Andersen learned a valuable lesson from this prosecution.”

Corona Arch is a popular hiking spot among southern Utah’s redrocks. It gained wider notice when adrenaline junkies turned the arch into a YouTube-friendly 100-foot pendulum swing — until the BLM banned all rope activities there in 2015.