People protesting the construction of a giant telescope on a Hawaiian mountain they hold sacred are decrying the destruction of a stone altar they built near the construction site.

The altar known as an ahu (AH'-hoo) was built June 24, the day hundreds of protesters prevented construction crews from reaching the telescope site on Mauna Kea (mow-NAH' kay-AH').

Lakea (LAH'-kay-ah) Trask is one of the protesters who has been camping regularly on the mountain to prevent crews from returning. He says they discovered Sunday that the altar at an elevation of 11,000 feet was bulldozed.

The University of Hawaii is responsible for Mauna Kea stewardship. University spokesman Dan Meisenzahl (my-ZEN'-sawl) says a support services employee removed the altar while grading the access road.

He says it's unfortunate that the employee didn't check with a supervisor first.