Vandals Desecrate Las Vegas Cultural Site - 8 News NOW

George Knapp, Investigative Reporter

Vandals Desecrate Las Vegas Cultural Site

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One of the valley's most important cultural sites is under assault by unknown vandals. The place is known as Little Red Rocks and it's home to petroglyphs that date back thousands of years.

Unlike most cultural sites, this one is on private property. The owner has spent a bundle to protect the area but nothing seems to work. Now a new partnership has been formed that is designed to protect what's left.

"At one point we put boulders across Charleston, I mean big boulders, and it took heavy equipment to set them. That wall was breeched in a couple of weeks. And we know that whoever did that had to use heavy equipment," said Howard Hughes executive Tom Warden who says his company has spent more than $1 million dollars trying to protect Little Red Rocks from vandals. Nothing works.

Whether its malice or ignorance, scofflaws and trespassers on this private property have truly outdone themselves in causing as much damage as possible. The graffiti is massive and multicolored.  Some is even ironic.  We found a burned car in a Native American roasting pit.

The area is peppered with ancient petroglyphs and pictographs which -- hard to believe -- have been specifically targeted by bullets and paint balls.

"In a case like over there with the pictographs, the only way to get that stuff off is to sand blast it," said archaeologist Dr. Alanah Woody of the Nevada Rock Art Foundation, who is part of a joint project with the Hughes Corporation to catalog and save these cultural sites.

"Continuing to burn things in the same spot, eventually that whole surface is just going to come off. And you can see the petroglyphs right under here. All that is engraved, deep, deep wide lines, probably pretty old, five, maybe 4,000 years old even," Dr. Woody said.

She also points out evidence of damage from bullets. "That's a bullet hole." Internet websites invite others to do what is called truck crawling, which destroys the rocks and the archaeological treasures found around them.

"See all the marks here, that's from the undercarriage of their vehicle, gouging out the rock," Dr. Woody points out. The owner has used helicopters to remove burned out cars. They even put up a fence but it was torn down the next day.

A new sign that went up near an access road should be hard to ignore but the crumpled remains of its predecessor speaks volumes.

"The truth is, a lot of it is young people, who just don't know better. They are coming up to party, to build bonfires but that's the kind of activity that -- number one -- education is going to help prevent and -- number 2 -- restricting access," Warden said.

The education is being taken care of by a steward program. Site stewards are trained on the area and it's history. They will not only help in documenting the past but will also act as site monitors, hopefully deterring drunken teens and rock crawlers from causing even more damage to this very special place.

"People have a problem these days it seems like, they kind of feel disconnected. And places like this help you feel anchored to the earth and anchored to humanity," Dr. Woody said.

It might sound odd, but one way to protect the area is to develop it. Future residents would be able to keep an eye on the place round the clock, although development is still 10 years down the road.

In the meantime, Little Red Rocks is private property. If you trespass, you can be cited. The stewards plan to write down any license plates they see out there.

If you want to sign up for the Stewardship Program, call Mary Peters at 285-3784.

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