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Demolition derby at protected wilderness area 

Members of a local wilderness protection group reported a vandalism episode that destroyed close to an acre of sensitive habitat in the Elfin Forest in Los Osos. The incident happened on Memorial Day, according to Bob Meyer, who sits on the board of the Small Wilderness Area Protection group, or S.W.A.P.

Meyer said the vandal broke into a fenced-off area overlooking the bay and proceeded to smash through an acre of protected land using a fence post and probably jumping on or using their hands to break vegetation, including federally protected Morro manzanita. Despite the small stature of the vegetation in the area, many of the oaks are hundreds of years old. The vandalized area was particularly fragile, Meyer said, and prone to erosion problems.

“Someone just came in here and trashed it,” Meyer said. “And that took a fair amount of effort. We can’t find a rhyme or reason for it.”

Pete Sarafian actually heard the destruction happening and chased the vandal away. “It sounded like carpentry,” Sarafian said, “like someone working with wood, more than breaking wood.”

Sarafian, who acts as the conservation chairman for S.W.A.P., said he has seen vandalism at the forest before, but nothing on this scale.

“Pretty much everything we’ve ever done in the Elfin Forest has been vandalized,” Sarafian said. “From tearing down fences we put up, stomping on cages that protect native plant seedlings that we plant, tampering with watering systems, carving on 500-year-old oak trees.”

The incident was reported to the county parks department. There are no suspects right now, but anyone with information can call 528-0392.

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