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Volunteerism vs. vandalism: build up or tear down

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Marie McCarty wants to know “Why?”

Why, after nearly two years of work raising money and improving the Calvin and Coyle Trail, complete with a new route, boardwalk and signage, why would anyone vandalize the new signs designed to interpret the forest after the spruce bark beetle infestation?

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Why would anyone destroy what so many people worked so hard to do for the entire community’s benefit?

Why would anyone find pleasure in tearing down what others labored to build up?

Why, indeed?

The signs, which were installed in mid-June, lasted just over a month. They disappeared over a period of time. Some are completely gone; some have been recovered, after being flung into the woods.

Those now rest in the Kachemak Heritage Land Trust office. McCarty, executive director of the land trust, is reluctant to put them up again because she doesn’t want to give someone the chance to tear them down again.

For McCarty, the vandalism isn’t about the money, although the signs, which cost $1,736.49 for printing and shipping, aren’t cheap. It’s about the callousness the vandalism shows toward the many community members and organizations that were involved in the trail’s extensive makeover. The trail work was a labor of love.

It’s hard for McCarty to count all those involved, but they include a large swath of the community — young and old and everyone in between — as well as a veritable who’s who of community organizations — the land trust, the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve, the Homer Soil and Water Conservation District, the Boy Scouts, the city, the state, ConocoPhillips.

The 18-by-24-inch metal signs with artwork by local artists Catie Bursch, Conrad Field, Lee Post and Toby Tyler are designed to be interactive, interpretive signs for both child and adult audiences. They’re mini lessons created to enable anyone to enrich their experience on the trail.

There’s no easy answer to the “Why” of Calvin and Coyle trail vandalism or any other act of vandalism.

Is it a disdain for authority that fuels the destruction? A lack of understanding the significance of what one destroys? A lack of connection to the larger community?

All of the above, plus a lack of respect for others, we suspect.

Is there a way to fix or fight vandalism? Not surprisingly, acts of vandalism are difficult crimes to solve unless a witness steps forward.

In the meantime, those whose hard work is destroyed are left feeling more than a little disappointed. They’re heartsick. A natural reaction would be for them to think twice before giving themselves to such a community project again.

But we hope they won’t be discouraged by the senseless acts of vandalism. Instead, we hope those many individuals who worked so hard on revamping the Calvin and Coyle trail will know that their work is appreciated.

While vandalism may illustrate disrespect for others with its destruction, those many volunteers showcase that depending on each other and working with each other is how people in a small community make things happen for the good of all.

It might not be exactly what the dictionary would say but the trail work of all those community volunteers is the exact opposite of vandalism. In fact, what’s happened on the Calvin and Coyle trail is a life lesson: We can choose to build up for the community good or we can tear down to the community’s detriment.

Thanks to all those who chose to build up a wonderful, accessible escape to nature right within our city limits.

— Homer News, Aug. 25

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