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Tram tower vandal comes forward

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. – Following a press release and overwhelming response on social media, a visitor responsible for pulling down a 113-year-old historic salt tram tower in Death Valley National Park last month is taking responsibility for their actions.

“We are grateful to the dozens of people who reached out to the park with information and for all the statements of support that we received from people who care about this place and its cultural resources,” said acting park Superintendent Elizabeth Ibañez. “Although we would certainly prefer that this damage hadn’t happened, we are glad that the person who did this ultimately took responsibility for their actions and came forward.”

The individual responsible for pulling over the salt tram on April 19 later called the tip line provided in a press release, stating that this was done during a time of desperation while being deeply stuck in mud, and that it wasn’t their intent to cause harm to the historic structure.

While traveling in remote wilderness areas where cell phone coverage is not available, carrying a satellite-based communication device is an important safety tool. As Death Valley’s famous summer temperatures continue to rise, park rangers encourage people to stay on paved roads during this time of year, as help is more readily available.

The park’s resource management team is working on doing a full assessment of the damage, and making plans for what responsible restoration of the salt tram would look like. While plans for how to best restore the damage is worked out, the park’s cultural resources team urges people to be patient. Repairs done by well-intentioned people who don’t have the proper tools and training can do additional damage, they say.

The park is not disclosing the identity of the vandal.

The Saline Valley Salt Co. built the 13-mile aerial tram to transport salt from Saline Valley to Owens Valley in 1911. The tramway climbed over 7,000 vertical feet at steep vertical grades up to 40 degrees. The Saline Valley Salt Tram is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is considered nationally significant because of its age, length, steepness, preservation, and scenic setting.

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