Sick of vandals
By BELINDA SCOTT
VANDALISM in Bruxner Park last weekend has brought Forests NSW staff close to the end of their tether.
Over the weekend vandals smashed the display panel out of a new interpretive display structure at Sealy Lookout which had been replaced only days earlier and also took a sledgehammer to a substantial brick fireplace at Swans Crossing picnic area.
The damage has angered and depressed Forests NSW staff, who were already struggling to repair and replace facilities at Bruxner Park Flora Reserve's three picnic areas. The picnic areas have faced vandal attacks which have become more frequent and more destructive in the past two years.
During this time interpretive signs, picnic tables and fireplaces have been damaged by the vandals, who have also torn out and burned posts. An etched aluminium plate showing the landmarks of the area was wrenched off and removed and the Queen's flagpole, erected for the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Sealy Lookout in 1970, was hacked down.
Forests NSW staff regularly paint over obscene graffiti on the water tank at the lookout and there is evidence that gunshots have been fired into garbage cans.
"The bottom line is we have to start questioning how long we keep trying to maintain these community tourist facilities," said the community liaison forester for Forests NSW North East Region, David Wilson.
"The (vandals) have obviously taken a sledgehammer up and smashed the barbecue almost to the last brick and they kicked the centre board out of the new display before we had even put the pictures up."
Mr Wilson said about 200,000 people a year visited Bruxner Park and particularly Sealy Lookout, which is the Coffs Coast's premier tourism lookout, allowing visitors to see along the coast as far as Middle Brother Mountain, 150km to the south, on a clear day.
'But in the past one to two years it has attracted an element of young kids at the weekend ? there were bourbon and coke cans all over the place on Monday morning and the barbecue area was strewn with cider bottles.
"Six to 12 months ago they were dumping oil all over the road and doing burnouts and the maintenance man was always taking up sand to spread on the car park."
Forestry staff include the picnic areas on their rounds and Coffs Harbour police also carry out random night patrols in the area.
"The next level for us is video surveillance which is very expensive and Forests NSW is not sure we want to take that on," Mr Wilson said.
Coffs Coast marketing manager Rob Cleary said natural assets like Bruxner Park and Sealy Lookout were crucial to the region's tourism industry, which operated in a competitive market.
He said negative experiences for visitors like finding a popular spot vandalised left a lasting impression."