After pocketing a rock as a souvenir from her trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, a young National Park visitor was feeling guilty. So she sent the rock back, along with an adorable letter—and the park rangers thanked her.
In a Saturday Facebook post, rangers from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park shared the letter from the environmentally concerned traveler, who signed it Karina.
“Deep Creek was awesome! I especially liked Tom Branch Falls,” the letter says. “I loved it so much I wanted to have a souvenir to come home with me, so I took a rock. I’m sorry, and I want to return it.”
Along with the rock in question, Karina’s handwritten message arrived with a donation and a pencil drawing of the waterfall, according to the post.
In their reply, park rangers assured Karina that her rock had been returned to its rightful place in the falls and thanked her for being “an amazing steward for the park.”
“If every visitor took a rock home, that would mean 11 million rocks would be gone from the park every year! The park would definitely not be as beautiful as it was before,” the rangers wrote in their post. “Rocks in the Smokies also provide homes for hundreds of creatures, including salamanders!”
It’s true that the park serves as an important natural habitat for a wide variety of species, from bears to deer to, yes, lots of salamanders. The Great Smoky Mountains are known as the “salamander capital of the world,” according to the National Park Service website, and are home to giant hellbender salamanders that can grow up to 2 feet long.
In another Facebook post, rangers pointed out that taking or even just moving rocks can threaten hellbenders’ eggs. The salamanders build their nests under rocks in streams, and disturbances can prevent the eggs from hatching, they wrote.
Plus, it’s actually a federal crime to remove objects from the park—so Karina was definitely smart to ship back her souvenir.
“Now that you know to leave nature the way you find it, we hope you will help share this message with others,” the rangers concluded their message to Karina. “It is always a good thing to give another the chance to discover!”
Florida Thief Given a Choice After Being Caught Stealing
In news related to apologies, a man caught stealing in Florida was given a choice by the shop owner who caught him stealing.
Bo Larsen, the owner of the smoke shop Bohemian Lair in Cocoa Village, said that he caught Tyler Stanley stealing from his shop while Stanley was applying for a job.
Larsen said that he gave Stanley a choice: he would get the police involved, or Stanley could give a public apology broadcasted on Facebook Live.
Stanley chose the latter.
“My name is Tyler Stanley and I made the biggest mistake of my life,” Stanley said during his live-streamed public apology. “I could have had a great job,” reported News6.
The four-minute video was shared hundreds of times before Larsen deleted it.
However, it was saved by social media users and continued circulating.
Stanley learned he was caught when he returned to the shop to learn of the status of his application and found that Larsen had viewed surveillance footage of the theft.
Go to jail or apologize on Facebook Live? A smoke shop thief chooses the latter when offered the choice by the owner of Bohemian Lair in Cocoa Village. Story on @news6wkmg at 5:30 pic.twitter.com/Ukvu4wKevL
— James Sparvero (@JamesSparvero) February 13, 2018
Stanley apologized but said he didn’t remember stealing because of his claimed bipolar condition.
“I really don’t remember doing that. I would have never done that if I was in my right mind,” Stanley told Larsen.
Larsen said on his Facebook page that he “Wanted to recoup the money for the item that was stolen and have the individual know we don’t tolerate thefts, and to deter others. (much better than sitting in jail)”
“I have worked hard to get to where I am. I have helped so many people along the way, and out of 500 + comments, there was maybe 2 or so who didn’t agree – for those 2, I am sorry. For the others, thank you for your support. Hopefully he gets the help he needs and straightens out his life,” he added.
“Everyone deserves a 2nd chance. This WAS his chance here. Hope this deters others, if it happens again- jail might be the way we go. Pay a fine, get a jumpsuit, 3 meals, a cot, get a record etc. We have an excellent security system, do not chance it.”
Epoch Times reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.