Law enforcement officers with the U.S. Forest Service are looking for anyone with information about a string of vandalized rocks on a trail southeast of Bend.
One or more vandals sprayed fluorescent paint on rocks along the Arnold Ice Cave Trail, said Jean Nelson-Dean, spokeswoman for the Deschutes National Forest. Hundreds of rocks as well as a few branches on both sides of the dirt trail were found late last month marked with bright paint.
“It is a real mystery,” she said.
Less snow hits the trail than forest trails west of Bend, making the Arnold Ice Cave Trail and other trails near Horse Butte popular in cold weather for horseback and mountain-bike riders.
“It would appear they are trying to mark the trail in some way,” Nelson-Dean said, “but it would be vandalism.”
The paint is orange and pink, and very noticeable along about two miles of the trail measured by GPS, said Joe Myers, 40, of Bend. Myers, who volunteers with the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, reported the paint to the Forest Service after coming across it a couple of days before Thanksgiving. He was out on a mountain-bike ride when he found the painted rocks.
It appears the “really strange” painting could have been done as some sort of safety measure to make the trail visible, but, like Nelson-Dean, Myers said it is vandalism.
“It just kind of changes the whole feeling of being out in nature when there are bunch of fluorescent orange and pink rocks everywhere,” Myers said.
People in the horseback-riding community are equally baffled as to why someone would paint the rocks, said Kim McCarrel, co-chairwoman of the Central Oregon Chapter of Oregon Equestrian Trails. The statewide nonprofit advocates for horse trails.
“I can’t fathom why someone would do that,” she said.
McCarrel said the vandalism is aggravating.
Vandals hit Hidden Forest Cave, which is near the trail, in April 2011. The vandalism was different though, with words scrawled in spray paint on cliffs outside the cave. A tip in that case led to the arrest and conviction of five people — three adult men, a boy and a girl — for misdemeanor criminal mischief. A judge ordered them to pay more than $20,400 in restitution. The restitution paid for cleaning up the vandalism, which required an expert to lead the removal of the paint while preserving pictographs on the cliffs, in summer 2012.
Authorities don’t have much to go on to figure out who painted the rocks on the Arnold Ice Cave Trail, so they are hoping for tips from the public, said Dan Smith, a patrol captain for the U.S. Forest Service in Bend.
“It’s a lot of vandalism up there,” Smith said.
Anyone with information about the painted rocks should call Smith at 541-383-5798.
—Reporter: 541-617-7812; email@example.com.