HOOD RIVER, Ore. (KOIN) — The fencing closing off the historic Benson Bridge at Multnomah Falls has repeatedly been vandalized since the bridge was closed to pedestrian traffic due to damage from a rock fall that occurred in early January.
According to officials with the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Forest Service office, signs informing the public about the closure installed at both the Multnomah Falls and the Wahkeena Trailhead have repeatedly been removed and damaged.
“They should be arrested because this is a natural park,” visitor Jackie Moghadam said. “Many people come here, and it’s not fair that they get to destroy what we come to enjoy.”
The Forest Service replaced the fencing and signs the vandals damaged. But if the signs and fencing are removed again, officials are worried someone could fall through the damaged section of the bridge.
In addition, officials said the damage has forced them to use the office’s limited employee resources to continually monitor and repair the signs and fencing and has resulted in the need for search and rescue operations in the area.
In January, a family hiking the Wahkeena Trail was rescued when they got stuck above the bridge and couldn’t find their way back.
There is also the risk of people getting stuck above the Benson Bridge from other trails and not being able to get down.
“That’s a safety hazard,” said Jennifer Kevil with the US Forest Service. “If they don’t have enough time in the day to go backtrack the way they came, then they could be in real trouble if they’re out during the night.”
During the closure, the Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls hiking loop is impassable, as well as the hike to the top of the falls. However, officials said visitors are still able to hike the Larch Mountain trail number 441 up to the closure at Benson Bridge, which will still allow visitors good views of the iconic falls.
John Kresl, who was visiting the bridge area, said the closures are disappointing.
“We were hoping to be able to hike up on the mountain and take photos of the waterfall, but, I mean, it’s still beautiful,” he said.
The bridge, built in 1915, is expected to be repaired by Memorial Day weekend for the summer season although another closure will be required in fall to complete needed repairs and maintenance.