By Lawrence Powell
After Annapolis Royal’s public works department spent all last week putting up interpretive signs along the French Basin Trail, somebody came and ripped them all down.
Residents are furious, and Annapolis Royal Police Chief Burt McNeil can’t figure out what makes people do such senseless acts. But he’s going to catch them and if anyone in the public has any information, he wants them to call.
“It boggles my mind,” McNeil said. “They didn’t just knock down a sign…they tore it all apart.”
Ryan Scranton with the Annapolis Heritage Society was at the scene of the crimes Sunday morning, along with McNeil. He was dismayed and dispirited when he saw the mess made of a project that promised great popularity.
“We were very excited about this as it was the culmination of a long project and the panels were getting very favorable reviews,” Scranton said. “They were literally hauled out of the ground and tossed into the water. Of the nine (signs), four of the panels are missing and one damaged.”
McNeil said the signs are worth $300 each.
But that wasn’t all that happened Saturday night or Sunday morning.
“Chris Jenkins (AHS volunteer) and I hauled four benches out of the water as well,” Scranton said. “There seemed to be about eight of the swallow nesting boxes that were smashed.”
Involved in the project were AHS, the town, and Clean Annapolis River Project.
“The project was essentially to create interpretive panels along the French Basin Trail to improve the experience of users,” said Scranton. “The panels themselves were two feet by three feet in full colour and very attractive.”
Scranton said the signs are made of plastic and designed to be tougher on standard vandalism (spray paint, scratches) because the image is imbedded deeply into the plastic.
“The content dealt with the natural and cultural history of the area around the trail,” Scranton said. “The various species that you could expect to see was the main part of the panels.”
“It makes no rhyme nor reason, that’s the worst part of it,” said McNeil about what would motivate someone to wreck the signs. “Right now we have no leads but if anybody has any information I’ll gladly accept it.”
Although he said there is nothing solid to go on, he’s pretty certain there was more than one person involved. He said it happened between 4 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday. Police received their first call about the vandalism at about 7 a.m. and McNeil talked to a resident who said the trail was fine at 4 p.m. the day before.
The weekend trouble on the trail isn’t the only incident in the past few weeks. One resident reported an odd and potentially dangerous situation that McNeil is taking seriously. The man and his wife and children were walking on the trail and found “someone had securely tied a rusty wire across the trail, in the shady section, about eight inches off the ground.”
McNeil could only describe the wire incident as stupid. “Thank God somebody saw it in the daylight,” the chief said.
McNeil said there have been some issues along the whole trail for a little while. There have been birdhouses in people’s back yards damaged, and bridges from yards damaged as well. He chalked it up to kids going up and down the trail. There have been similar incidents at the skateboard park with benches moved around, he said.
He said officers have been keeping an eye on the trail, and soon police bike patrols will be starting up. “They’ll be on bikes all around the place,” McNeil promised.
Also recently, there were acts of vandalism at the Melanson Settlement park operated by Parks Canada.
Anyone with any information on the weekend vandalism at the French Basin Trail can contact the Annapolis Royal Police Department at 532-2724, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
The investigation is ongoing.