SALEM — Police are looking for vandals who spray-painted vulgarities on a newly paved rail trail in Salem and two granite park benches over the weekend.
David Topham of the Friends of the Salem Bike-Ped Corridor said he and many others in town were dismayed to see the usually “pristine” and “tranquil” trail defaced.
“It was really bizarre and really disturbing,” Topham said.
He said about a quarter-mile of the rail trail, which was just completed in the fall of 2018, was affected by the vandalism, with spray paint on sections of the pavement and two benches.
Usually, the rail trail area is well-maintained, and is the pride of residents and town officials alike, Topham said.
“And these yahoos go out there and put profane graffiti all over it?” Topham said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Deputy Police Chief Joel Dolan said he suspects one or more teenagers are responsible for the graffiti, and school resource officers have been notified of the incident.
“The rail trail has seen minor damage, but this is the most extensive since the opening,” Dolan said. “It’s disappointing to say the least, as many people have spent countless hours to bring this project to Salem and work tirelessly to maintain and keep the trail in great condition.
Police were notified about the vandalism on Sunday about 2:40 p.m. An officer estimated the vandalism took place 12 to 24 hours before.
Topham said the graffiti was removed as of Monday afternoon, with the help of volunteer Michael Banks and Chandler’s Power Washing.
“We’re very thankful for the quick response on this. The community wants to see the trail properly maintained and looking nice,” Topham said.
Last fall, someone removed a set of cable-attached Allen wrenches from a bicycle repair station, Topham said. That bike station has been temporarily removed while construction crews work on new water line connections and a new pressure-regulating station.
Topham and other rail trail volunteers had concerns about the station’s appearance, but learned from town officials Friday that it will be designed to look like an old-fashioned train station.
“It’s gonna look nice in the end,” he said.
Last May, town officials, volunteers and police leaders gathered to celebrate the latest section of rail trail to be completed in town with a ribbon-cutting.
So far, two miles of rail trail have been fully paved from the Windham line to Main Street.
The rest of the 5.2-mile trail will eventually extend through the Tuscan Village area to the Methuen, Mass. line.