HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Land Trust of North Alabama reports a steady rise in visitors over the past couple of years. While they’re excited to see that, they say, it’s also brought a rise in something else that’s not so great: vandalism.

Lands Manager Andy Prewett said it could partially be because more people are moving to the area, as well as more people finding the Land Trust during the pandemic and using it as a way to get some fresh air.

“With that influx, comes additional maintenance, additional needs and unfortunately, the bad apple,” Prewett said.

He said they’re seeing everything from graffiti to barrel fires, trash dumping and even destruction to fences and directional signs.

“When we have to divert resources to vandalism, it’s definitely a challenge to maintain the needs that we have,” he said.

The land trust is a nonprofit, so the undue maintenance costs, both monetarily and through manpower, are adding up.

“Right now, the Land Trust currently manages 70-plus miles of trails, eight trailheads and everything. I have two land stewards,” Prewett said.

While they try to catch those responsible, oftentimes there aren’t enough leads to follow. So, staff are raising awareness of the issue via Facebook, encouraging those who use and love the trails, to hold themselves and others accountable.

“Whenever we’re dealing with the folks who just don’t care, hopefully, the folks that use it can kind of help us monitor it. Identify the issues so we can respond quickly so it’s not a festering problem,” he said.

Prewett said the longer this remains an issue, the more resources that get taken away from not only current maintenance but future trail development too.

“So many of the people who do use our trails and trailheads are respectful, but there are always those few bad apples that create an inordinate problem,” he said.

Prewett adds if a hiker sees vandalism happening, to first call the police. Then call the Land Trust, so they can begin assessing the damage done.