Battle Over Painted Rocks in RI Pits Enthusiasts vs. Enviros

Tuesday, February 06, 2018
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

While painting rocks has become increasingly popular, opposition has emerged. Photo:Nina Baraka -- Painted Rocks (Facebook public)
A local Facebook group -- South County Rocks -- has amassed more than 12,000 members who are interested in finding, painting, and leaving rocks for others to find, but not everyone is enamored with the concept. 

"My concern is they are telling group members it's OK to take rocks off the shoreline and giving them specific locations on where to ruin the environment," Cranston resident Tricia Ann Gelinas told GoLocal on Monday -- after posting that she had been blocked from the group for sharing her concerns.

"#SouthCountyRocks I think this is crazy. You block me on commenting [because] I point out how you letting many people know that taking rocks for our amazing Rhode Island shoreline is doing damage to our home," she wrote, showing one commenter who thanked the South County group for pointing her to "Rock Beach" to replenish her supply. "Also -- see the comments I was not allowed to explain my point just blocked...next step contacting DEM."

The issue is far from being unique to Rhode Island. 

Canadian Lauren Friesen wrote for "Hike Like a Woman" last fall, "The Kindness Rocks Project -- Not So Kind to the Environment."

"Some cities have approved designated rock gardens which operate on a take-one-leave-one basis. However, the rocks have also been placed randomly, where people seek them out in a scavenger hunt-like search. A growing number of rocks have been showing up in parks, city streets, and even out in natural areas," wrote Friesen. "While one or two may not be noticeable, many become graffiti-like and disruptive. And despite warnings on the website that placing rocks in National Forests and National Parks is 'frowned upon,' people are still placing them there."

"This directly contradicts Leave No Trace principles," added Friesen. "State and National parks have had to issue statements asking visitors not to place rocks in these natural areas and have been forced to dedicate resources to removing them."

About South County Rocks

Photo: Janine Dennison Runyon-Painted Rocks (FB-Public)
The Rhode-Island rocks group, which began in April 2017, was started by Edna Sager and her daughter Wendy Maglio.

Sager writes on the page -- which a closed group:

"I am the organizer of this new group SOUTH COUNTY ROCKS ! ... along with my daughter Wendy Maglio, after returning from Florida where my husband and I found a total of 56 rocks while walking in a park in Martin County.  On the back of the rocks said "MC ROCKS." Some people painted their initials and 2017.

We found rocks from 5 different areas in Florida...from Ormand Beach to Palm Beach.  All were painted in different designs, some very simple that a child had done and some by professional artists !!!

It was SURPRISINGLY exciting to find the rocks.... We were addicted. We couldn't wait to find more and looked everywhere we went. It made all of our travels so much more fun !!! I couldn't wait to come home and join a group up here and start painting...but there weren't ANY in RI ????? 

And so my daughter said we HAVE to START ONE !!!! She made the FB page and we started painting and hiding hundreds of rocks !!!!!!... and the rest is history."

Maglio did not respond to request for comment on Monday.

And while some "leave no trace" adherents advocate for a middle ground with painted rocks -- including the use of non-toxic paints -- some parks and localities have banned them altogether. 

Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming had the following to say in September on their Facebook page:

"A trend has sprouted all over the country of painting and hiding rocks. This activity is usually associated with a Facebook group local to a particular area. Some of the stated goals are spreading kindness, positivity, inspirational messages, creativity, or as a fun game that gets kids outside.

However, leaving rocks in National Monuments, Parks, or any federal public land is considered littering, a form of vandalizing, is disrespectful, and is illegal.

The mission of the NPS is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources of each park for the enjoyment of this and future generations. We do this by observing Leave No Trace principles (https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles), and in general can practice this by remembering the saying “Leave only footprints, take only pictures.”

"I am planning on contacting DEM -- I reached out to them via Facebook," said Gelinas of the Rhode Island situation. "I would look at another option in requesting to see if the law addresses removing rocks and sand from the coastline. I just don't get...taking from the shoreline, potentially ruining the environment."

Cover photo:  Deana Lisman, West Coast Painted Rocks (FB-Public)

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