Acts of vandalism and other destructive behavior could bring an end to the "intimate access" visitors to the Tonto National Monument near Roosevelt currently enjoy.
The monument is one of the last places in the southwestern United States where visitors can actually walk in the footsteps -- through doors and rooms -- of prehistoric people. The well-preserved cliff dwellings were occupied by the Salado culture during the 13th, 14th, and early 15th centuries, and the majority of the walls standing today were standing in 1450 when the last occupants walked away.
But a document released by Bradley S. Traver, monument superintendent, discussed the behavior that threatens to curtail tours of the prehistoric dwellings in its original condition.
"Since September of 2003, there have been six documented cases of people urinating in the dwelling, six documented cases of people climbing on walls or ceilings, seven documented cases of suspected vandalism, and three other cases of inappropriate behavior detrimental to the dwelling," Traver said.
Among the alternatives under consideration in drafting a new policy for access to the lower cliff dwelling:
- No action.
- Increased on-site monitoring.
- Introduction of remote monitoring.
- Restriction of access to the most sensitive rooms.
- Restriction to guided tours only.
As the first step in the process of deciding which alternative to select, the National Park Service is soliciting comments and input from the public through Aug. 31. An alternative will be selected and environmental assessments will be conducted.
Comments will again be solicited, and a final decision will be made.
"The monument (staff) plans to have a decision in-hand by the end of the year," Traver said.
Comments can be made online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov under Tonto National Monument. Written comments should be sent to: Tonto National Monument, HC02 Box 4602, Roosevelt, AZ 85545.