City confronts vandalism on 'M' hill trail
With damage to the city of Madras' "M" trail and monument continuing, city and police officials are asking the public to report suspicious activity.
"We have talked to a number of the residents that live near there and told them that we've had damage on the hill and we appreciate your vigilance," said Madras Police Chief Tanner Stanfill. "We've asked if they've seen anything suspicious, to call us."
The "M" trail, a 1.3-mile section of the city's trail system, officially known as the Willow Creek to Madras Skate Park Trail, was completed in 2013, with about $469,000 in grants. The trail, which has slopes ranging from 5 percent to 20 percent, has been popular with walkers, runners and bicyclists since the start.
Despite the popularity, vandals have managed to cause $10,000-$12,000 worth of damage in recent months, according to Sara Puddy, human resources and administrative manager for the city.
"We've been dealing with damage to the lights since that trail section was built," said Puddy. "But, the level of vandalism to the light infrastructure has increased in the last month."
"Someone has, in some cases, knocked the top off, in some cases, pulled the top off and dismantled the wiring, and in some cases, sidekicked them," she said, which has caused the concrete bases to shift.
Of the 30 or so LED lights, each of which is about 3 feet tall, there are about a dozen that have been damaged beyond repair. "We're looking at $500 to $1,000 per light," said Puddy, noting that the LED lights are more expensive to install, but less expensive to operate.
The viewpoint monument — a concrete cylinder topped with a marble compass — has also suffered extensive damage. The 1-inch thick marble top had the city's logo etched in the center, with directional markers that pointed out the surrounding mountain peaks.
The center of the marble top has gradually been chipped out, causing irreparable damage to the monument. "That damage started four to six weeks ago," she said. "It started as a little, but they continue to grind out from the center. The marble top was polished; now, it's crumbling."
"The compass itself was the most expensive single piece of damage, and the most visible," she said.
The city is planning to replace the monument, but is in the process of determining what type of monument would be more tamperproof, and how much more that will cost.
"We want to put something back in there that can't be destroyed," said Puddy, who is looking into a metal marker.
"Everybody takes so much pride in that particular amenity," she said, referring to the "M" trail. "They were hurt that someone would do that."
Besides the damage to the lights and the monument, vandals have also tagged parts of the monument with graffiti, and chipped off pieces of the concrete benches, which have stamped in color.
"If we go to metal, it doesn't blend in as well, but it will still look very, very nice," she said.
The city has considered installing taller lights, "but then you have to trench for power," said Puddy. "It will probably be a conversation with the (city) council."
Stanfill said that the police department is considering surveillance, but won't discuss those plans. "We're looking at options for monitoring the 'M' hill trail," he said.
"Community awareness is huge," said Puddy. "It's going to take the community paying attention to what they're seeing and hearing in the community and reporting it to the police."
The city provides updates on the trail on its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cityofmadras.