By Laura Brown

Triplicate staff writer

Sometime last week, a group of vandals ripped up benches and picnic tables from the Lake Earl Coastal Lagoon Trail.

This isn't the first time vandalism has occurred since the trail was built just a little over a year ago.

andquot;It's pretty maddening. This time, they did some severe damage,andquot; said Tim Williamson, manager of the Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

One picnic table was completely destroyed when it was thrown into Bush Creek. Four old-growth redwood benches, weighing 100 pounds each, were dislodged from the earth and hoisted down hillsides and thrown into blackberry thorns. Two other tables were also tipped over and rolled into the brush.

Larry Depee, a Fish and Wildlife technician, first noticed the disarray when he and his wife hiked the trail on Saturday.

andquot;We were just in disbelief that someone could come in and tear something up so pretty,andquot; said Depee.

The trailhead sign has been reset at least three times, according to Williamson. The sign has been permanently moved to its current location in the parking lot adjacent to Lake Earl Drive.

Crews from Alder Camp have had to drag picnic tables out of the lake before.

Williamson says he believes the vandals, more than likely, are juveniles.

andquot;I think they're just bored,andquot; he said.

Because the wooden trailside furniture is government property, perpetrators of the crime could face juvenile hall if they are younger than 18, Williamson said.

The trail took nine months to complete with the help of prison labor crews from Alder Camp. The labor for the benches and tables were donated by the Alder Camp crews as well.

The mile-and-a-half-loop trail takes visitors through varying habitats, from grassy meadows to fern rich forests and open vistas with expansive views of the coastal lagoon known as Lake Earl.

Anyone with information about the vandalism can call the Lake Earl Wildlife Area at 464-2523 or CalTIP (Californians turn in Poachers and Polluters) at 1-888-DFG-CALTIP.