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Vandals Damage Cave Formations, Thousands Of Years Old, At Buffalo National River

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Buffalo National River
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Investigators are trying to determine who is responsible for damaging a cave at the Buffalo National River.

Vandals broke into a locked gate at Fitton Cave in August.  The vandalism left many cave formations, including stalagmites and draperies, damaged and missing in one of the largest cave systems in Arkansas.

Cassie Branstetter, spokesperson for Buffalo National River, says Fitton Cave System is home to rare cave formations and is known for being biologically diverse.

"But it's also a piece of Buffalo National River, which is more than a state heritage.  It's a national heritage.  Fitton Cave belongs to every single citizen of the nation, and, by destroying and damaging the geological resources that are inside of it, no longer will those resources be available to anyone else in the nation," she said.

Many cave formations take thousands of years to grow, so the damage to the cave is significant, according to Branstetter.

"Sometimes people will take cave formations to have that beauty, perhaps, in their own home, not knowing or, perhaps, realizing that the moment that it is damaged or removed they ahve forever changed the thousands of years of geologic work that has gone into play in that cave system," she said.

Damage assessment is underway at the cave, which has 12 miles of navigable passages.

Anyone with information about the vandalism at Fitton Cave is asked to go to nps.gov/ISB and click “submit a tip” or call or text the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch at 888-653-0009.  Tips may also be submitted by email to nps_isb@nps.gov.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.