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Joshua Tree's Barker Dam closed after names etched onto structure

Vandalism at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park. Credit: National Park Service

Joshua Tree National Park's Barker Dam remains closed to the public as officials try to determine how to restore the 113-year-old structure vandalized in recent weeks by dozens of names scratched into its surface.

The etchings are similar to those seen before: "Julio '13." "Jason." "Brookln + Joel." But park officials don't want them on the dam, which is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

On Feb. 8, the park announced that public access to the dam would be closed from 130 feet upstream from the structure to 180 feet downstream "to protect it from further damage." The closure, a statement said, was deemed "an emergency situation" and "will remain in effect until the damage to the dam is stabilized."

Officials told the Press-Enterprise the vandalism was discovered in January but was thought to have begun late last year. The working theory is that someone etched names and others added to it over time, thinking it was allowed.

Now, experts are trying to determine how to remove the etchings without causing additional damage, the newspaper said. Scraping off the markings, for instance, could take off wood-grain imprints made during the dam's construction that are important to showing how dams were built at the time, archaeologist Caitlyn Marrs told the newspaper.

David Lamfrom of the National Parks Conservation Assn. told the Press-Enterprise the vandalism "is harming both history and the future."

"It makes me sad," Lamfrom said. "It says something about not having the perspective to know the  long-term repercussions of our actions."


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Photo: Vandalism at Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park. Credit: National Park Service

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