Vandalism forces closure of Pine Flat campground

August 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Acts of vandalism have forced officials to shut down a popular campsite in Fresno County. The Pine Flat Campground located below the Pine Flat Dam on Trimmer Springs Road is closed indefinitely.

Vandals destroyed the bathrooms at the Pine Flat Campground, tearing out the plumbing and creating a mess. "Without the bathrooms, we can't have it open for overnight camping. So the decision was made to close the park grounds," said Fresno County Department of Public Works and Planning Resources Manager John Thompson.

Nearby Winton Park remains open but things aren't looking much better there. Vandals tagged rocks, barbeques, and even trees with graffiti. "It was horrible. It didn't look like nature. It looked like a nightmare," said visitor Jose Zarate of Fresno.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the first time Fresno County has had to deal with vandalism at its parks. Budget cuts have forced them to leave them unstaffed. "It's open game. We don't have the staff there. And without anyone there, you can do whatever you want," said Thompson.

The cost to repair the constant cycle of vandalism is draining the county's resources. Visitors like Zarate say they're the ones who suffer. "We don't have the money to do all this other stuff so we come out here and entertain ourselves with nature and now we can't even do that. It's sad," said Zarate.

For now, Winton Park remains open. County staff hopes to have the graffiti painted over within the next week.

The Pine Flat Campground is leased to the county by the Army Corps of Engineers. Thompson said it would be up to the Army Corps to decide whether it will renew the county's lease. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors will be briefed on the situation next month.


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