Speculation has run high after the Schulman Grove Visitor Center was burned to the ground Wednesday. Talk around town pointed to someone disgruntled with the wilderness issue. Investigators have not yet determined a cause, but local law enforcement is taking a serious look at this fire in light of a number of recent acts of property destruction across the Eastern Sierra.
A broad spectrum of Eastern Sierra law enforcement officials met Friday to discuss what they have seen region wide in the past month. With unusual acts of vandalism from Leavitt Meadow in the north to Haiwee Reservoir in the South, Inyo Sheriff Bill Lutze organized a rare meeting of Forest Service and BLM officials, officers with the Highway Patrol, Inyo Sheriff, and Mono Sheriff Departments, along with officials with the City of Bishop and LADWP.
Nancy Upham with the Forest Service reports that local law enforcement is highly concerned about patterns.
No firm connections to other crimes have been established, but Upham says acts of vandalism have been reported up and down the Eastern Sierra in the last month.
Numerous parked cars have had their windows smashed out at local trail heads. Leavitt Meadow trail head has been hit in the north end of the region. Nothing was stolen, but someone has smashed out windows at South Lake and the Big Pine Creek trail head as well.
On the south end of the region, at Haiwee Reservoir, cars and buildings have been broken into and electric meters shot at.
Mono County has had reports of fee tubes, where campers pay their fees at unstaffed campgrounds, burglarized. The White Mountain Research Station facility at the summit of White Mountain has been trashed and covered with gas, but not set on fire.
The most recent addition to the list is the complete destruction of the Schulman Grove Visitor Center. Fire investigators have neither confirmed arson nor ruled out that possibility at Schulman Grove.
Meanwhile, citizen speculation over the high profile fire pointed to wilderness issues, environmental attitudes and just plain vandals. With the possibility of politically motivated arson at the Schulman visitor center, Upham reports that so far no one has taken credit for the fire and no obvious signs were left at the scene.
No firm connections have been made, but law enforcement has taken notice. More information on the cause of the Schulman Grove fire is expected to be released next week.