Over the past four months, one or more vandals have mangled nearly 20 signs in the Phil’s Trail and Wanoga trail systems west of Bend.
Now Deschutes National Forest officials are trying to figure out who did the damage, and Central Oregon Trail Alliance volunteers are preparing to replace the signs.
“We try to get back out there and fix them,” Woody Starr, board chairman of the Bend-based alliance that maintains Phil’s Trail system, said Tuesday. “(It) might be a week or so. We are going to have to order new signs.”
In April, the Deschutes National Forest and the alliance implemented one-way routes in portions of the popular mountain biking and running trail systems off Skyliners Road and the Cascade Lakes Highway.
Signs mark the change on Ben’s Trail and a section of Phil’s Trail in the Phil’s Trail system, as well as Tyler’s Traverse in the Wanoga trail system.
The focus of the vandalism has been the one-way signs on these trails, with the most recent acts occurring in the past couple of days on Phil’s Trail, Starr said.
One or more vandals also recently toppled the sculpture of a bicycle off Forest Road 4610 in the Phil’s Trail system, but Starr said he thinks that is not related to the vandalism of the signs. The sculpture had stood for about a decade.
Starr and Chris Sabo, trails specialist for the Deschutes National Forest, said there are no plans to repair the “user-created” sculpture.
Instead, the emphasis will be replacing the signs, which Sabo said were attacked “gorilla-style,” with a vandal or vandals trying to pull them from posts along the trail. The vandalism left signs bent, broken and, in some cases, in tatters at the base of the posts. He said the vandals may not agree with the one-way trails, but that there are much more civil ways to show their disapproval.
Volunteers install the signs, each costing the trails alliance $23, Starr said. With 18 signs damaged, the cost of replacing the signs is more than $400.
The Deschutes National Forest and the alliance made the partial switch to one-way trails in an attempt to make the trails safer.
The change made Ben’s Trail an uphill route and most of Phil’s downhill. Before, traffic went both ways for most of the trail system, with increasing use leading to problems.
“We’ve had near misses or collision on some trails,” Sabo said Tuesday.
Those responsible for the vandalism could face misdemeanor charges, with fines, jail time and restitution possible. Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call the Deschutes National Forest at 541-383-5300 and ask for Capt. Dan Smith.
Anyone who wants to comment on the one-way trails can email the Central Oregon Trail Alliance at Directional@COTAmtb.com. Starr said the Deschutes National Forest and the trails group are open to suggestions about how to improve the trails.
“I would say directional trails are here to stay,” he said, but specific one-way trails could change.
— Reporter: 541-617-7812, email@example.com