The packages seem totally innocuous. Not very large. Slightly heavier than you might expect for their size. Addressed to Gettysburg National Military Park, but not to a specific department or person. Often without a return address. Not terribly unusual at all.
Except for the curse.
The boxes in question hold rocks. Rocks that were previously removed from the park, and are now being returned. In almost every case, they also contain a letter, such as the one below, received in May of this year:
Or this one, from June 2015:
It is important to remember that removing rocks from the park is a violation of Chapter 36 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Section 2.1(a)(1)(iv) prohibits “Possessing, destroying, injuring, defacing, removing, digging or disturbing from its natural state a mineral resource or cave formation or the parts thereof.” If these individuals had been caught in the act, they would have been cited and fined $100, plus a $30 processing fee. All in all, they may have preferred that.
Now, I know what you’re thinking (only because I’ve had people say this to me): “But it’s only one little rock!” True. But while it may be “one little rock” to you, Gettysburg National Military Park receives over 1 million visitors every year. What if every visitor took “one little rock”? How long before that starts to have an adverse impact on all of our resources, but in particular, our stone walls? How long before you, our dear readers, and other visitors, start to notice that impact?
Many of the stone walls here in the park are historic, and existed at the time of the battle. Some were erected by the farmers as boundaries for their fields, and some were thrown up in haste by soldiers looking for cover. Later stone walls were repaired and rebuilt along battle lines by the War Department, Gettysburg National Military Park Commission, who oversaw the park before its transfer to the NPS in 1933. These walls were completed in 1896, and are historic in their own right.
National Parks were created in 1916 (it’s our 100th birthday!) to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (Organic Act, 1916). All we ask is that you enjoy your time here in Gettysburg without removing anything that would contribute to any kind of impairment.
So no matter how pretty that rock is, or how small it might be, or how much you really want something to remind you of how much you love Gettysburg, please remember that it needs to remain right where it is.
Unless, of course, you want to be cursed.
By Maria Brady, Park Ranger, July 7, 2016