UPDATE May 16: See below
Vanessa Hudgens, star of the 2006 hit movie High School Musical, is under investigation with boyfriend Austin Butler for allegedly defacing a rock with their names in Sedona.
Hudgens' Instagram page documents some of her recent trip to Arizona's Red Rock country, but the Valentine's post featuring her and Butler's name carved into a boulder has been taken down. The post had hundreds of comments before it was deleted from the site, but Hudgens' other Sedona-related posts are generating a large amount of hate mail about the carving.
"Why would anyone think it's ever okay to carve their name into something that ISN'T THEIRS. You suck as a human being," writes Instagram user Jazneyland.
"Wow. Ignorance is abundant," a user named kbaer1111 wrote. "It's not that they carved something into a random rock, it's that they were blatantly disrespectful in a region where anyone with common sense would know has a tremendous amount of history associated with it. Yes, it's a ROCK but either way it was something they shouldn't have defaced. It's that simple . . . Vanessa Hudgens or not."
Other commenters defended the couple: "Oh wow how her so-called 'fans' grassed her up! It's just names in a rock that will be erased by rain anyway! You are all acting like she killed someone, chill out!" writes phebs120896.
The Coconino National Forest Red Rock District confirmed for some news outlets that an investigation of the incident was under way.
"The issue of people carving their names and other things in rocks in the Sedona and surrounding area is always a challenge we face, and [we] try to inform people about its destructive nature," says Brady Smith, spokesperson for the Coconino National Forest, in a statement to New Times. "We have found that when one person carves something, it encourages others to carve. Carving of any kind affects the natural beauty of the area and it is something that is prohibited."
The incident is receiving national press, making the phone ring off the hook at ranger district.
"Oh, gosh," Smith says. "It's nonstop."
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Sedona and its Martian landscape is among Arizona's greatest natural treasures, and even parking around the area is tightly regulated with the Red Rock Pass Program.
According to the Forest Service, the program "is a conservation tool designed to protect, enhance, and maintain Sedona’s awe-inspiring red rock landscape for the American public for today and into the future. The level of care and maintenance required for the Red Rock landscape exceeds that needed in other National Forest areas."
Since starring in the teen movie, Hudgens has kept the tabloid press and Internet sites hot with several "leaked" nude-photo scandals.
The rock incident, which many outdoor lovers deem an outrage, may be eroding that popularity a bit. Is she or Butler end up convicted of damaging a natural feature on U.S. land, they face the possibility of a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.
UPDATE: Hudgens paid a $1,000 fine for this incident in April, the Associated Press reported in May.