A week after the collapse of Oregon's Duckbill standstone formation, officials are investigating a video showing a group of people dismantling the iconic attraction.
The collapse of Duckbill, located in Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, a state park in Pacific City, Ore., was originally thought to have resulted from natural causes. But a video taken on Aug. 29, in which a group of eight people gather around the naturally formed pedestal and pull it down, has led authorities to open an investigation.
David Kalas, the bystander who recorded the video and posted it to Twitter, told the Associated Press that when he and his friends saw what was happening, they approached the group to ask what they were doing.
"We confronted them and they said it was a safety hazard," Mr. Kalas said. "They said one of their friends had broken a leg on it. It's like their weird revenge thing."
Climbing atop the sandstone formation in pursuit of the perfect Instagram post has been a popular tourist activity for years, despite the state park's efforts to curb the behavior. Duckbill had been fenced off because of safety concerns – since 2009, seven people have died from falling into the ocean or onto rocks when the park's sandstone cliffs crumbled – but the fence and park warnings were frequently ignored, NBC News reports.
In response to the video footage, Duckbill admirers took to social media to mourn the beloved attraction, with some posting their own photos perched on top of the rock formation.
"If people don't start respecting nature and what it offers we are going to lose more places," wrote one Instagram user. "Now since [Duckbill] is gone maybe people will stop going out past the fence.... There are no signs on the fence about fines or being put in jail. It just says 'do not go beyond fence.' We can blame social media, but really, people need to be responsible for their actions and choices."
The incident highlights what officials say is a rise in bad behavior among visitors to national parks and other conservation sites, oftentimes for the sake of a photo opportunity. As The Christian Science Monitor reported last week:
As the National Park Service celebrates its 100th anniversary, parks around the country are struggling with how to curb vandalism, theft of resources, and other risky, rule-breaking behaviors. Law enforcement records suggest problems are on the rise at Yellowstone National Park and others, including the Grand Canyon and the Great Smoky Mountains.
The rise in bad behavior comes at a time when the national parks are more popular than ever. But that popularity has led some to worry that the parks system isn't adequately equipped to deal with an influx of visitors.
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department spokesman Chris Havel told NBC News on Monday that possible penalties for the destruction of Duckbill had not yet been determined, though breaking park rules can carry a minimum fine of $435.