By Jessica Howard
Vandals who damaged several large trees at the Lerderderg State Park have left behind identifying evidence.
Brandon Traynor, an avid camper who runs the Facebook page Swag Country, said three old trees were hacked down with a chainsaw sometime between Saturday, February 3 and Sunday, February 4.
He said vandals also graffitied a number of nearby trees, and left a large quantity of glass and rubbish in a fire, which was still burning on Sunday morning.
“We drove around to the main entrance of the camping spot but it was blocked by the
fallen trees,” he said.
“I first thought that they may have fallen down in the wind but when we stopped, it was clear that they had been deliberately cut down, and not by a professional, but by someone who certainly didn’t know what they were doing”.
Mr Traynor said the campsite was littered with several broken beer bottles and cans, as well as Chinese take away containers, loaves of bread, a bag of prawn crackers and empty condom wrappers.
“All of the food looked quite fresh, like it had been there for only a short time.
“We also found either a 4WD tow or snatch trap in the fire”.
The incident comes just two months after vandals illegally cut down five trees, some more than 100-years-old, at the Lerderderg Campground, Upper Chadwick Track, in December last year.
Mr Traynor said according to a park ranger, the site was clean and undamaged on the morning of Saturday February 3.
“Fortunately the person responsible left behind a receipt printed with either their first or last name,” he said.
The receipt revealed two items purchased from an adult shop in Sunshine and listed the date and time of purchase, and the name Ryan.
Mr Traynor said the receipt was handed in to a nearby park ranger.
“After cleaning up the site as best we could, we started to drive home via O’Briens Crossing, when we noticed a park ranger,” he said.
“We showed her all the photographs and the receipt we found, which was a very, very fresh receipt. It wasn’t crumpled at all, it literally looked like someone had just gone shopping”.
Mike Forsyth, Parks Victoria’s Area Chief Ranger for Geelong, said Parks Victoria was notified of the abandoned campsite and felled trees on Sunday February 4.
“The site has now been cleaned up by Parks Victoria and the incident is being investigated. If anyone is caught cutting down trees on Parks Victoria managed land they risk being fined,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it’s an all too frequent occurrence for Parks Victoria staff’s valuable time and resources being used to clean up rubbish and vandalism in parks and reserves.
“Cleaning up from any act of vandalism takes away time and money that could be better spent on productive activities such as maintaining walking tracks or improving park services”.
Penalties for cutting, felling, removing, damaging or destroying trees and other vegetation in national and state parks can include initial fines under the National Parks Act 1975, additional fines under the Wildlife Regulations 2013, and court judgements where further penalties may be applied.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Parks Victoria on 13 19 63 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.