'LL' vandalism taken seriously
Vandalism to the Los Lunas "LL" landmark on the hill costs taxpayers every time rangers must repair it.
Formally called El Cerro de Los Lunas, the hill is in the Open Space park on the village's west side. The letters and year number are formed with large, heavy rocks that are painted white and seem to attract pranksters of all ages.
Recently, about five Belen High School students vandalized the hill and rearranged the boulders into the letter B. They were cited, and will face a judge in court.
"In the last six years, I've probably had to go up there at least a dozen different times to actually fix the hill," said Pat Jaramillo, Ranger supervisor. "If not Belen, it's been Valencia (high schools). The landmark represents the community, not the school districts."
Last summer, an older resident painted the letters purple and changed the date to commemorate his class' graduation year.
Each time the rocks are moved they have to be repainted after being moved back. It takes five to six gallons of heavy-duty outdoor paint to repaint the rocks at a cost of more than $50, plus the time and labor of the Open Space staff who hike up to fix it.
"Once you get up there, it's a lot larger than you think," said Jaramillo.
Getting up there isn't easy, either. It's a 40-minute hike up and many of the trails are quite narrow, he said. Hauling heavy drums of paint up there is tricky.
"One time, a staff member uncovered a rattlesnake under one of the rocks, and was almost bitten," he said.
Vandals prefer the shortest route to the landmark, but it is over rough and dangerous terrain, he said. Climbing over the slippery shale and navigating the cliffs at night is even more treacherous than during the day. Sprained ankles, cuts and bruises, or worse, is not uncommon.
The village has tried fencing off the area, but vandals pulled the stakes out and tore the fence down, Jaramillo said.
Now the Open Space department is looking into cementing the boulders together so they can't be moved anymore.
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