Route 66 News

Mitchell Caverns vandalized after state closes it

Mitchell Caverns, part of the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, was extensively vandalized after it was closed last spring due to state budget cuts, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The Times reported:

Intruders cut fences, kicked doors off of hinges and shattered windows and display cases. They stole metal signs and survival gear, including hand-held radios, flashlights and binoculars. They also stole diesel-powered generators and ripped out thousands of feet of electrical wire used to illuminate the only natural limestone caverns in the state park system, San Bernardino County sheriff’s investigators said.

“What happened at the visitors center is devastating and heartbreaking,” said Kathy Weatherman, superintendent of the California Parks and Recreation Department’s Tehachapi District. She said the caverns themselves were not damaged. The state is taking steps to try to prevent more destruction, including searching for a full-time caretaker, Weatherman said. […]

State Parks and Recreation Department officials decided to mothball the area last May because of two unrelated events. The park’s two rangers retired and the state found serious problems with the water system, said Linda Slater, resource interpreter at the nearby Mojave National Preserve. The state couldn’t afford the repairs needed to keep the park open. […]

Park officials estimate the damage at $100,000.

State park advocates fear that more vandalism will occur at facilities that are closed. It’s hoped those parks will reopen when the state’s budget situation improves. But that’s no guarantee — only about a dozen of the state parks are financially self-sustaining.

The caverns were named after Jack Mitchell, who owned the caves from 1934 to 1954 as an attraction and rest stop for travelers on Route 66. Jack’s granddaughter, Sue Ellen Patrick, told the Times:

“My family feels betrayed because the state didn’t do what it promised us, which is protect the caves and the heritage.”

Maybe it’s time to deed over the caverns to a private trust that will renovate the complex or conserve it. That would certainly be a better situation than what’s happening now.

(Hat tip: Kevin Hansel)


19 thoughts on “Mitchell Caverns vandalized after state closes it

  1. Ron Hart

    Penny wise, pound foolish. Some state and national parks have had to put certain parks and day-use recreation areas in mothballs due to funding problems, but to avoid vandalism and trespassing, many contract with a pair of RV owners to stay for 90 day commitments. The parks have the utilities in place, and usually provide these volunteer “guardians” with an ATV for patrolling & basic maintenance, 2-way radios, uniforms and cover certain operating expenses. Park police, county deputies, etc stop by and check-on them often and it is a very rewarding experience for the “workampers” as well. All of this at a fraction of the cost of hiring security guards. What happened at the caverns did not have to happen at all. So sad.

    1. Bob Roberts

      Did you read the story? QUOTE:

      The state found serious problems with the water system, said Linda Slater, resource interpreter at the nearby Mojave National Preserve. The state couldn’t afford the repairs needed to keep the park open.

  2. Mary

    The fat cats of this country have enough money to keep everything running. This is not about bureaucratic b.s. It is about the 1% holding us and our public lands hostage by not paying their fare share.

  3. Ron Hart

    I I commented earlier, the National Park Service, and many State Parks use V.I.P.’s (Volunteers-In-Parks) to maintain Park property, usually with one “paid” Ranger or Supervisor to oversee and assign duties. This saves us taxpayers millions every year and is tremendous P.R. as well. I looked at the website for this park, and it looks like a beautiful place to visit. I hope the State re-considers and re-opens the park. A few simple concealed “deer” cameras would have likely brought about the arrest of the vandals. As with anything, you get what you pay for!

  4. Brad G

    Shameful. Meanwhile the public employee unions make sure their state employees preserve their lucrative salaries, pensions, healthcare plans, benefits packages, etc. But then we slash the services the government provides to The People .. you know, the ones actually paying the taxes for those services.

    Government greed and insanity at its worst.

  5. Doug

    You people complaining about wages for public employees need to give it up. I was a park ranger and the pay was not high….the people sitting in the Capitol are the ones making too much money.

    Turn the caverns over to Mojave Nat Preserve and let them save it.

  6. DL

    My Father ran this park for many years. This place was the love of his life. Unfortunatly, as it detiorated so did his health, with a stroke in the fall of 2011 and ironically his passing this February as the vandals were arrested. Had my father known of the park closure, he would have been more than willing to have voluntarily cared for it.

  7. Mike

    I think I would have been cheaper to keep then open. Plus california
    Just found ha 54 mil in an unknown state park bank account.

  8. Jerry Wheeler

    This breaks my heart. I love Providence Mountain and Mitchell Caverns. I remember camping there and watching the Perseid meteor showers there the year they improved the ranger station. The last time I visited was 2009. I hope I can visit again and I would love to be the caretaker if they’re really looking for someone.

  9. Harold

    Did the State REALLY think that an abandoned, unguarded facility WOULDN’T eventually get vandalized? OF COURSE this was going to happen! It’s amazing that the caverns weren’t vandalized too. THEY’RE NEXT!

  10. Roger McKasson

    I was the Supervising Ranger II their from late 1990 to mid 1993 and loved working there. While there, I could see the writing on the walls for something like this to happen with repeated cuts in the budget and staff there. Sad to hear about the damage done there. One on site Park Ranger and a few volunteers could have kept this from happening!

  11. Mark V

    My family just drove by on our way home from Laughlin and noticed the sign painted over. I was telling my kids about how great a tour I remember taking here many years back and I was anxious to share the experience with them. Now I read this and feel sad…sad…sad.

  12. Mark R.

    How about turning the caverns back over to a private interest to make a profit? Mr Mitchell operated the caverns for many years and did it, why shouldn’t someone else like him do it again? With all the bureaucratic red tape, state salaries, pensions and benefits the caves will take years to reopen if left for the government to decide. Give it back to the people and keep your hands off!

  13. Steve M

    After politicians, thieves and vandals are the people I hate most. There are special places in Hell for all three groups.

  14. John Grisafi

    Two years later …I am glad to see the State found the funds needed to repair and reopen the park. Too bad for the short sited political pandering that occurred back in 2012. The State needs to consider using concessionaires to operate our public parks in order to provide better services. Public funding for parks has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

  15. Desert Tripper

    Insanity. A state the size of CA doesn’t have the funds to station ONE full-time caretaker at the site? There are plenty of people who would be more than willing to stay out there for minimum wage or even on a volunteer basis. I would have gladly done this when I was between jobs; what desert rat wouldn’t want to live someplace with a view like that? So the vandals caused $100K in damage – how many employees could have been hired to protect the site for that amount? Bureaucracy bites, just like it did in 2000 with the NPS and its mishandling of the late Mojave Phone Booth in the nearby preserve.

  16. Pat B.

    Funny how the totally corrupt politicians have plans to build a imaginary high speed railway no one wants or needs, yet just decided to close this place because of no money, I am calling B.S. on this one team… Gotta love Demoncrats….

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