A young girl named Katrina will think twice about trying to swipe a souvenir the next time she visits a national park.
After snatching a heart-shaped rock from Tom Branch Falls in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the traveler had second thoughts — sending it back to park rangers with a sweet note of apology.
Her letter was shared on the park’s Facebook page, Saturday, along with a picture of the rock by the waterfall.
“Deep Creek was awesome!” Katrina said in the handwritten note. “I especially liked Tom Branch Falls. 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,” she added.
In addition to her apology, Katrina also provided a pencil drawing of the waterfall and a financial donation.
Rangers from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were happy to accept her apology.
“Thank you so much for returning the rock!” they wrote in the post. “It has made its way back to Tom Branch Falls. We are so glad you enjoyed your visit. Already, you are becoming an amazing steward for the park.”
They went on to explain why removing rocks from parks is so dangerous.
“Thank you for recognizing that what is in the park should stay in the park,” the post read. “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.
“Rocks in the Smokies also provide homes for hundreds of creatures, including salamanders! By leaving rocks where they are, we’re helping protect these special homes as well as the beauty of the park.”
Katrina’s guilt notwithstanding, it’s a federal crime to remove objects from a National Park.
“Now that you know to leave nature the way you find it, we hope you will help share this message with others,” the rangers wrote. “It is always a good thing to give another the chance to discover!”
The note ended with an adorable postscript, with rangers telling Katrina, “We love your drawing!”