MALIBU — Even in this remote corner of the Santa Monica Mountains, Mother Nature is taking a beating from urban trouble-makers.
Tapia Park, a haven for climbers, hikers and the like since the land was acquired by the county in the 1930s, has of late been desecrated by graffiti, ravaged by off-roaders and made dangerous by visiting gang members.
So Los Angeles County recreation officials have decided to save Tapia by giving it up entirely. Control of the 126-acre park is being transferred this spring from county to state park officials, who have plans--and the resources--to better monitor the area.
"There's been a lot of hanging out by youth groups who don't respect the property," said Jim Holt, an employee of the state Department of Parks and Recreation who has been giving tours of Tapia to generate community interest. "We have ideas on creating a controlled access. . . . The state park's objective is to keep the land in its natural state."
The entrance to Tapia is not gated--as at similar parks--allowing the "wrong crowd" easy access to the remote facility, Holt said. Natural rock formations are covered with graffiti, and vandals have left behind the mark of Valley gangs, spray-painted on the walls of rundown park bathrooms.
The Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department has agreed to give up Tapia in large part because the state, which operates nearby Malibu Creek State Park, has employees close enough to watch over the recreation area.
"In our terms Tapia is separated from the rest of our park system quite a bit," said Jim Parks, a spokesman for the county parks and recreation agency. "We've had limited operation abilities . . . "
The transfer, he said, is a prudent move.
State officials plan to incorporate Tapia as an extension of Malibu Creek State Park, expanding the patrol area of the state park's five rangers to reduce vandalism and other problems.
"We're going to have to stretch our staff a little thinner," said Russ Guiney, a superintendent with the state parks department.
Tapia Park is an especially rich natural resource, with plant life growing together in unusual combinations, said Suzanne Goode, associate resource ecologist with the state parks agency.
For instance, sycamores, chaparral and coast live oaks grow within feet of each other.
Malibu Creek--filled with amphibians and fish such as the steelhead trout--traverses both Malibu Creek State Park and Tapia Park.
State officials hope to control the number of visitors to Tapia Park by fencing each of the entrances, with a main entrance staffed by state rangers who will collect admission.
"People tend to respect public property a little more when they have to pay to get in," Goode said.
The state also has plans to purchase new picnic tables, refurbish restrooms and set up horse stables in the park. "We want to provide a safe place for kids and families," Holt said.