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Vanessa Hudgens fined for rock carving

Associated Press Associated Press 15/05/2016

Actress Vanessa Hudgens has paid $1000 in restitution for carving a heart into a red rock wall during a trip to Sedona, Arizona.

Hudgens posted a photo of the carving bearing the names Vanessa and Austin on her Instagram page around Valentine's Day, along with other photos of the couple amid towering red rocks that draw throngs of tourists to northern Arizona.

The payment resolves a citation issued to Hudgens on a misdemeanour count of damaging a natural feature on US Forest Service land. The money was used by a volunteer group called Friends of the Forest to restore the rock wall, which typically is done by scrubbing or sanding the rock.

A federal magistrate in Flagstaff approved the agreement April 19, but it was not made public. The Associated Press obtained a statement of probable cause and the agreement resolving the citation from the federal judiciary under a records request.

A publicist for Hudgens did not immediately respond to a message left Friday. Hudgens is best known for her role as Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical TV-movie franchise.

Hudgens admitted to using a rock to scratch the names inside the heart and gave authorities information on where to find it. Volunteers and Forest Service employees found the heart matching the description around February 23 on a geologic formation known as Bell Rock.

Forest officials rarely find out who is responsible for vandalising rock walls, but Hudgens celebrity status played a huge role, Coconino National Forest Service spokesman Brady Smith said.

Hudgens' followers on Instagram alerted the media, and authorities took note of the news coverage. The photo of the carving quickly was removed from her page.

"She was caught in the act because she publicised it and she's famous," Smith said. "I'm sure there are others who are not famous and publicised it and we've never known."

Smith said carvings destroy the natural beauty of the area and create the perception among the public that it's OK to deface rock walls. Damaging a natural feature is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Jennifer Young, president of Friends of the Forest said about 10 to 15 volunteers responding to reports of vandalism set out in the Red Rock Ranger District every other week in search of reported graffiti and use wire brushes, sandpaper and a specialised drill to clean it up.

"Unfortunately, there's a lot that happens," she said.

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