Viral photo said to show alleged vandals at Oregon’s Tumalo Falls


http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2015/05/prineville_mans_viral_photo_of.html

Prineville resident Brett Nelson thought a spontaneous hike up Tumalo Falls would be the perfect way to enjoy a sunny Saturday.

But instead of lifting his spirits, the scene at the Bend-area waterfall ruined Nelson’s day. An adult man and his teenage companions – a boy and a girl – were carving their names into the railing beneath the falls.

When he asked them to stop, the trio refused. Their blatancy irked Nelson, 41, a fourth-generation Oregonian whose favorite pastime is “exploring and finding things that have never been touched.”

Nelson’s hiking companion, Lyle Sweeney, took a photo of the trio, and Nelson shared it on Facebook.

“PROUD parent letting children carve names in tumalo falls hand railing,” he wrote, along with the photograph of the trio.

In the image, the man dips his hand into a plastic food bag while the boy smiles and the girl holds up a peace sign.

The photo has since been shared more than 35,000 times on Facebook, with many users calling upon their social media contacts to help identify the vandals. The Forest Service is investigating, too.

“Brett doing what he did really helps us out,” said Deschutes National Forest spokeswoman Kassidy Kern. “For as spoiled as his experience felt in the moment, it certainly has catalyzed a movement of people who really value public lands.”

Without visual evidence of the vandals, Kern said, the agency likely would have opted not to investigate. Vandalism is so common in the 1.6 million acre forest, she said, the agency must pick and choose which incidents merit the expense of an investigation.

Nelson said both the man and the kids challenged him when he objected to their carving on the railing. Nelson asked the man for his license plate number, “so I can carve my name in the hood of your car.” He said the man responded “go for it, it’s a rental car.”

When he asked where they were from, the man responded “California.”

“I was like, ‘Go back,'” Nelson said. “Go carve your name in your own picnic table. Nobody wants you here.”

Vandalism isn’t unusual at Tumalo Falls, nor at other recreation sites across Oregon and beyond.

It’s a big problem, said Glen Sachet, a regional spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. In the Northwest alone, Forest Service staff and volunteers spend countless hours investigating, prosecuting and cleaning up after vandals.

“It costs the public money, it damages the long-term sustainability of our resources and our facilities, and it’s ugly,” Sachet said.

It’s also virtually impossible to stop.

The agency recently won a long-awaited conviction against a man who went “mudding” in Washington’s Colville National Forest, tearing up a delicate meadow. Soon afterward, Sachet said, “it happened again.”

Nearer to Tumalo Falls, Forest Service workers recently discovered boulders that had been removed from the banks of Whychus Creek, then rolled down an embankment. They haven’t located a suspect.

Although officials have yet to identify the people in Nelson’s photo, they’ve got thousands of extra detectives on the case. This isn’t the first time social media users have lent a hand to investigate vandalism on public land.

Earlier this year, Casey Nocket took social media heat and became the subject of a National Parks Service investigation after she posted pictures to Instagram of drawings she made on rock faces in national parks from Crater Lake to Yosemite.

When another Instagram user expressed dismay about Nocket’s graffiti, she responded, “I know, I’m a bad person.”

Defacing public property is a misdemeanor in Oregon. Depending on the cost of replacing the damaged property, the Tumalo Falls vandals could face jail time and thousands of dollars of fines, if caught.

So far, Nelson said, no leads have turned up, “but I have like 7,000 unread instant messages in my queue.”

“I don’t want any kind of ramifications toward the kids,” he said. “That’s not the message I’m trying to get across. I just want wrongdoing to be admitted and for us all to move on.”

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