El Paso

Rain and the effects on Franklin Mountains, rangers see rise in vandalism

Rain and the effects on Franklin...

EL PASO, Texas - As summer and the monsoon begins to wrap up in the borderland, more hikers will be making their way to the Franklin Mountains or Hueco Tanks to take advantage of the cool weather. The rain slightly affected the trails this year, but there's another issue that may be causing problems for hikers that isn't weather-related at all.

"The desert is basically coming back to life," Franklin Mountains State Park Superintendent Cesar Mendez said.

Mendez says the moisture from the monsoon season has several effects on the mountains.For one, vegetation. Lush plants are visible throughout the franklins. While beautiful, Mendez says rangers have to cut back and trim vegetation that can cover trails and make them impassible.

The rain also causes erosion, making it difficult for hikers to distinguish trails.

"There are some areas that always located crossing wired paths like arroyos, creeks, so those areas need constant work," Mendez said.

Rangers work to re-establish trails by creating "switch backs" or slopes, to help hikers make their way up and down the mountain. While the borderland has seen more than a dozen mountain rescues this year, Mendez says it's mainly because hikers chose to go their own way.

"They see the trail a little bit further down, and they try to go straight down to the trail so they create those shortcuts," Mendez said.

Mendez tells ABC-7 there's another problem. The mountains have experienced a spike in vandalism this year. Signs that are meant to mark the trails have been destroyed, putting other hikers in danger.

"Without those directional signs, sometimes they get to a point and they wander off trail and then they get in trouble." Mendez said.

Mendez says rangers monitor more than 26,000 acres of land and more than 130 miles of hiking and biking trails and it's disappointing they have to spend time fixing the vandalism.

"The worst thing is it costs a lot of time and we don't have that much time because as I mentioned we have too many other activities we have to be doing and by having to go and replace signs, it's cutting on a lot of other essential activities," Mendez said.

Mendez says they've also seen littering and graffiti. There are trashcans readily available for trash.

If hiking, Mendez recommends not going after dark, taking plenty of water and a cellphone.

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