Art is in the eye of the beholder, whether it’s inside a museum or in the great outdoors.
So while some see the mysterious appearance of a big slice of watermelon near the Bishop Peak trailhead as a desecration of natural beauty, to others, it’s rock art — which is showing up in a lot of places these days.
People are painting rocks and then hiding them at various locations in San Luis Obispo County; examples can be seen on the SLO Co. Painted Rocks Facebook page.
Most of the painted rocks are small and easy to hide. The same cannot be said for the painted boulder discovered recently at Bishop Peak.
Never miss a local story.
We don’t know if this was part of the rock-painting trend. But we do know the as-yet-unidentified watermelon artists are now, literally, between a rock and a hard place. In the eyes of the law, they are considered vandals, and if they’re caught, they could face felony prosecution if the damage totals $1,000 or more.
We acknowledge that a crime is a crime and cannot go unpunished. And yet, we’re torn.
That slice of watermelon is so darned cute and whimsical — and so much more appetizing than, say, the gross ABC gum on downtown’s Bubblegum Alley — that our inner child is rooting for the watermelon.
To those of you tsk-tsking and shaking your heads, yes, we’ve heard plenty of arguments against the melon:
The slippery slope
Sure, it’s just one slice of melon now, but next thing you know, we’ll have another Pirate’s Cove on our hands!
That is called catastrophic thinking. Do not go there.
“What if this were Yosemite? Or the Grand Canyon?”
This is not Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon. This is one rock on one trail in San Luis Obispo.
It’s destroying nature!
Come on, if we want to be all self-righteous about the pristine nature of nature, what about that giant “M” on Cerro San Luis and the “P” on the hillside near Cal Poly? Those are a lot more visible to a lot more people than Watermelon Rock.
Graffiti is bad!
Tell that to people paying tens of thousands of dollars for works by street artists like Banksy.
It’ll attract unwanted attention
This is one argument we can’t argue against.
Bishop Peak is already visited enough — so much so that a couple of years ago, the City Council agreed to no longer feature the trail in the city’s promotional materials.
And can you imagine what would happen as word of Watermelon Rock spread? It would become a quirky must-see spot for tourists .... just like the Madonna Inn and the painted cows, and yes, Bubblegum Alley.
Pretty soon, there would be Watermelon Rock T-shirts. Couples would pose for Watermelon Rock selfies. Kids would pester their parents to take them on the hike with the giant watermelon slice.
So sadly, Bishop Peak is not an appropriate locale.
Still, it seems a shame to sandblast this watermelon out of existence. Instead, why not find it a new home? Better yet, auction it off for charity, like those painted cows.
As for the perpetrators, make their punishment fit the crime. Trash pickup on Bishop Peak seems appropriate.
After that, they can hose down Bubblegum Alley.