2017-10-11 / Front Page

Large reward offered after vandals paint initials on observation deck

By SAM ADAMS


Vandals painted their initials on this overlook platform that is being built by volunteers atop Pine Mountain. A reward is offered for information leading to arrests. Vandals painted their initials on this overlook platform that is being built by volunteers atop Pine Mountain. A reward is offered for information leading to arrests. County business have chipped in to pay for a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of vandals who spray painted one of the new observation decks on Pine Mountain.

The Letcher County Tourism and Convention Commission, with help from HOMES Inc. and volunteers, began building the three decks at overlooks on U.S. 119 South less than two weeks ago, and pictures were on the front page of last Wednesday’s Mountain Eagle. By Sunday, someone had already spray painted initials and Saturday’s date on the new boards.

“It’s a sad thing when pride and respect are a dying thing in some of our people,” tourism chair Missy Matthews said.

Matthews said she is trying to make most of the things that will be placed at the tourism sites vandal resistant, but not everything can be. She urged residents to watch for people damaging sites.

“It belongs to all of us; all of us need to take care of it,” she said.

Sheriff Danny Webb noted that there used to be nice tennis courts at Fishpond Lake, but vandals destroyed those, too. He said he and his wife played tennis there when he was a Kentucky State Police sergeant until they went one day to find someone had stacked up all the picnic tables in the middle of the court and set them on fire, destroying the tables and the tennis courts.

“I think hanging them might be enough of a punishment,” Webb said of the vandals who damaged the overlooks.

District One Constable Chris Caudill said businesses have pooled money for the reward, and tips on the identities of the vandals have already started to come in. He said persons with information can send a private message to the tourism and convention commission’s Facebook page.

Over the past few years, vandals have stolen the garbage cans at the Pine Mountain sites, destroyed at least one picnic table, and spray painted graffiti on the guardrails.

The tourism commission is now planning to start surveillance to discourage vandalism at the overlooks, which are popular with tourists and with local residents.

Any day at sunset the overlooks will have multiple cars parked with people standing at the guardrail taking pictures, and sitting at one of the sites for an hour shows a steady stream of drivers stopping to take in the mountain views. The new observation decks stick out over the side of the mountain and trees below them have been cut back to afford visitors a better look than they ever been able to get before. Once completed, each overlook will include picnic tables and concrete sidewalks. There are two tables at the overlooks now, but the tourism commission is developing a third site.

Matthews said she won’t let the vandalism deter her from building the sites. Now president of Childers Oil, Matthews said the first project her father gave her to work on with the business was stopping vandalism of the restrooms at the Isom Double Kwik when she was 19. She said someone would use a sledge hammer to bust up the fixtures, or steal fixtures nearly every weekend. Her solution was to build a dining room around them.

“So far, we’ve not had anybody carry a toilet out through the dining room,” she said.

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