Los Padres National Forest crews work to clear offensive graffiti at Lopez Lake

Over the weekend, people driving to Lopez Lake were met with an unpleasant sight — graffiti strewn along a rock formation off of Hi Mountain Road.

Los Padres National Forest officials say it will take a lot of work to clean up the area. On Wednesday, crews were on-site power washing the rocks.

“This isn’t something we do on the National Forest often,” said Fire Prevention Captain Fred Pena. “Los Padres National Forest is a place known for recreating — ‘land of many uses.’ The majority of our public that comes here is to enjoy the land.”

On Sunday, however, the serene, peaceful views near Lopez Lake were marred by numerous swastikas, slurs and offensive messages spray painted roughly 10 miles into the Hi Mountain Road Trail.

“We basically scrambled to get the resources we needed. Spending has been an issue right now. There has been a spending freeze,” added Flemming Bertelson, fire public information officer for Los Padres National Forest. “The preferred tool for the job would be a sandblaster, but we are doing it the old-fashioned way today.”

Throughout the morning, Bertelsen and Pena worked together, trying to scrub away the vandalism by hand, but they say more help will be needed to erase all of the offensive symbols.

“It is always more in-depth than it initially appears, so I think we will be here at least half the day and well into the afternoon,” Bertelsen added.

He says a five-employee, 500-gallon fire engine from the Los Padres Pozo Station will also be coming out to assist with the power washing efforts.

Fred Pena adds that clearing the graffiti as soon as possible is a top priority, to prevent it from happening again.

“It is horse land, it is ranch land, there are beautiful vineyards, wineries, and horseback riding in the area, so it is kind of unusual. So, we got quite a few calls from the public being concerned that this was going to continue.”

Bertelsen says in his 20-plus years working for Los Padres National Forest, this recent display of graffiti is the worst that he has been tasked with cleaning up.

And though he believes this was just a disturbing, isolated incident, when Bertelsen first saw the spray-painted hate messages on the rock, he says the feeling was “deflating.”

“A lot of people see this as an extension of their backyard, a lot of the locals especially. It is their sanctuary. They love and cherish this area. It just hurts to see it,” Bertelsen added.

He says his team at Los Padres will be working alongside local law enforcement in their investigation into the vandalism. He encourages anyone who sees additional graffiti to reach out to their office immediately.

Officials with the San Luis Obispo County Public Works Department say they will be replacing Lake Lopez signs that were also defaced.

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