LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Vandals have targeted two new sites in the Red River Gorge in the past few weeks. The restroom facility at the end of Tunnel Ridge Road was spray painted with graffiti and the historic Nada Tunnel was spray painted.
The Nada Tunnel was constructed for railroad transport of timber from the gorge in the early 1900s. It is on our nation's National Register of Historic Places.
Therefore, if those responsible are caught, they could face serious consequences because vandalizing a historical site is a federal offense.
Forest staff have launched an investigation.
Public affairs officer, Tim Eling, estimated that vandals target the Forest more than a hundred times every year.
Eling said he hopes social media posts bring awareness and encourage visitors to help combat such vandalism.
"We're trying to bring attention to the vast majority of visitors who are repulsed by this and don't like to see vandalism and hope that they can convince people ... that this is not a good thing, or if they see something, report it," said Eling.
According to Eling, it takes a lot of time, effort and money to maintain the many campgrounds and hundreds of miles of trails and roads. However, when there is vandalism, resources are diverted to cleaning it up, which takes away from the regular maintenance.
"When we have to divert money to things like vandalism, maybe a campsite doesn't get repaired, a picnic table doesn't get replaced," said Eling. "We're not getting to those normal things we have to fix and replace as quickly as we'd like."
In 2019, vandalism forced the closure of the Whitman Branch Shooting Range.
Eling said it was closed for several months and cost nearly $50,000 to repair.
Another extreme case of vandalism dates back to 2008 when the Tater Knob Fire Tower was destroyed by an arson fire. The tower is still closed to the public after 12 years with no solid plans to rehab the structure.