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Ranger Tony Hoffman of California State Parks in the Corral Canyon Cave prior to paint removal 

For years, the Corral Canyon Cave has been a popular spot for local young people to meet up, drink alcohol and light bonfires. In 2007, a fire at the cave went out of control, eventually becoming the Corral Canyon Fire. 

That fire burned 4,900 acres, 53 homes and caused an estimated $100 million in damage, but the cave did not lose popularity — though California State Parks officials began to take notice.

“It definitely got on my radar, personally, then, and I felt really really bad — but the truth is, you know the rangers, we can’t be everywhere at once,” Supervising State Park Peace Officer Lindsey Templeton said, “but it was still very sad.”

Since about 2010, the cave has become newly popular due to a rumor that it was a hangout of Jim Morrison, front-man of The Doors. The cave’s walls became a canvas for all kinds of art, with paint coating it from floor to ceiling. Crushed glass bottles littered the cave floor and surrounding environment and graffiti “tags” spread from the cave to surrounding rocks yards away.

Whether you think graffiti is beautiful or a blight, it’s now gone from the Corral Canyon Cave.

Last week, California State Parks’ plan to have graffiti removed from the cave, which is popularly nicknamed the “Jim Morrison Cave,” went into action, when contractors from Valencia, Calif.-based New Vision Construction set about removing years’ worth of graffiti from the former Chumash site. On Saturday, boulders and rocks were brought in to seal the narrow entrance leading into the cave.

“We sandblasted about 5,000 square feet of graffiti off rocks at the not-Jim Morrison Cave,” David Bader of New Vision explained. The project, which lasted four days, also included removal of graffiti from surrounding areas at the Corral Canyon trail.

“The contractor was great, and I think he took it kind of personally, too,” Templeton said. “He was so amazed by the beauty of the area, he cleaned more than we paid per square feet.”

The project was estimated at $31,000 to start, Templeton detailed, but ballooned up to around $41,000 since graffiti “tagging” in the area increased exponentially in the past year.

“Just recently, we had a lot of arrests and we had continued problems,” Templeton said. “The people just … A certain age group just didn’t seem to get it, and they were calling the graffiti ‘art,’ which is infuriating because it’s a cultural site, a Chumash cultural site.

“To me, it would be like someone going to your church or temple and spray painting over it — so it was kind of maddening, to be honest,” Templeton described.

Paint in the cave, some of which had accumulated over five or 10 years, was nearly a centimeter thick in places. Bader pointed out places where paint could be peeled off in large chunks, while other areas required relentless blasting by an eco-friendly mix of ground walnut shell and fine sand.

“The project was meaningful,” Bader said. “ It’s … state parks, so everyone can enjoy the beauty of it, and it’s really pretty up there — gorgeous views, gorgeous rocks and it’s fun to hang out in, and the graffiti just ruined it. So we worked extra hard to get the trail up to the rocks clean.”

Whether or not the sandblasting and cave closure will be effective is yet to be seen, but Templeton said he hoped the work and attention given the problem could help cut back on the number of felony arrests in the area.

“I’m a realist, and I know we’re going to still get tagged, but hopefully it’ll stem the tide,” Templeton said. “We’re doing more active enforcement — we’re doing plainclothes patrols and when we arrest, we arrest for felonies, so actually, if someone gets caught tagging up there, it’s going to ruin their life. It’ll definitely change their life forever, and the way they’re looked at by society, and the way you get a job, for the rest of your life.

“It’s sad. We don’t want to do that to kids. It’s a shame,” Templeton continued.