OCEANSIDE — It took a few days between when vandalism was spotted at El Salto Falls and when cleanup erased the fact it had ever been there.
Preserve Calavera preservation group members described the vandalism that defaced rocks near the falls as “heartbreaking.”
The falls is a sacred Native American site that is still used for rituals. It sits on private property on the Oceanside-Carlsbad border.
A housing development is planned on the surrounding property and construction is expected to begin this spring. This will help protect the sacred site by the anticipated installation of trails and signage that will allow people to enjoy the falls from a distance.
Carlsbad Trails Master Plan is also in the process of being updated. Developed trails allow safe access to nature, and encourage more community watchdogs to keep an eye on things and alert authorities to vandalism or trespassing.
Right now there is no public access to the area. The remoteness of the falls has led to homeless encampments and illegal hiking.
“It is not open to the public,” Diane Nygaard, founder of Preserve Calavera, said. “People hear about it, and it becomes an attraction to see and explore.
“Public use is very damaging.”
Preserve Calavera monitors the area. When a photographer spotted the graffiti in mid January she contacted the preservation group, which in turn contacted the property owner.
Special care was given to clean off the graffiti and preserve the remote rocky site.
The owner has security on the property, but the graffiti was overlooked until Preserve Calavera brought it to the owner’s attention. Nygaard said she also needed to explain property agreement conditions to the owner that include the responsibility to take care of the sacred site.