The public bathrooms at Coldwater Lake were vandalized over the weekend, and it will cost the Forest Service more than $10,000 to repair the damage.
On Oct. 9 or Oct. 10, three toilets and one urinal were completely smashed and sink fixtures and plumbing also were damaged at the Coldwater Lake Recreation Area picnic site, which is in the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument within Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
“These facilities will remain closed into the foreseeable future, which will negatively affect visitors’ experience at this year-round destination,” a Forest Service press release said. “Restrooms at the boat launch remain open at this time.”
As the bathrooms are technically property of the United States under the Code of Federal Regulations 36CFR.09a, the damage could result in a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or six months in jail, the press release said, and the level of destruction is a felony. Restitution could also be awarded to recoup losses.
According to local law enforcement officers, theft and vandalism on the forest are increasing significantly, the press release said. If visitors see people vandalizing recreation sites or ecological resources on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, they should report it as soon as possible by calling 911 or the county sheriff’s non-emergency phone line to report crimes.
The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 360-577-3098; the Skamania County Sheriff’s Office at 509-427-9490; and the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office at 360-740-1105.
“When reporting crime, it is helpful to gather as much information about the incident as possible, such as description of people, location and/or license plate,” the press release said. “If it feels safe to capture photos and video of an incident, this can be useful as well.”
The Forest Service is asking anyone with information about the vandalism or who saw anything that could help police make an arrest to report the information to the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s office’s non-emergency line.
Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Ranger Rebecca Hoffman called the vandalism “disheartening” and said the high cost and time it will take to fix the damage “will divert already limited staff and funds from managing and maintaining other recreation facilities on the forest.”