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Two-Mile Section of Appalachian Trail Vandalized
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
12:18AM / Thursday, October 14, 2021
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Trees and rocks along a two-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail were spray-painted with arrows and words.


Trail volunteers will be trying to clean up the vandalism. Anyone with information about the markings is encouraged to contact DCR.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A portion of the Appalachian Trail was vandalized and about 50 trees and rocks along about two miles of trail have been marked up with red spray paint.
 
"It is disrespectful to trail visitors who are seeking a natural outdoor experience in an unspoiled setting, and to trail volunteers who are responsible for preserving that experience for everyone," Appalachian Trail volunteer Cosmo Catalano Jr. said.
 
The vandalized area is off the Massachusetts Avenue trailhead, approximately two miles to the East Mountain overlook
 
Catalano, who volunteers to maintain this section of the trail, said he found the markings during one of his regular visits.
 
"I was very disappointed to see this defacement of a beautiful natural space, let alone an iconic National Scenic Trail," he said.
 
Catalano said the vandalism occurred sometime after Sept. 3 and before Oct. 9
 
Catalano said there has been vandalism on this section of the trail in the past but this instance seems more organized. 
 
"Over the past 10 years or so, there has been sporadic painting of rocks here and there," he said. "Trail volunteers have been able to clean these isolated instances as part of their regular duties. This current vandalism is a more organized effort. It appears to be intended to provide direction and support for a group of some kind and has affected almost two miles of trail."
 
Catalano didn't have any leads but assumed some sort of trail race team spray-painted the arrows and other symbols marking the trail.
 
"Neighbors have not reported a lot of unusual activity in the area, so I'm doubtful it was a sanctioned event," he said. "Through other trail volunteers and DCR staff, we are reaching out to local coaches and running organizations to see if they know of a formal or informal event in the past month ... We'll also be working with the National Park Service Appalachian Trail ranger if any federal resources are needed."
 
He added that the vandalism should have no long-term effect on the trail ecosystem and is more disrespectful than anything.
 
"The paint likely has little long-term effect. However, the effort to restore the natural surroundings of the trail must be conducted carefully so as not to cause further damage or impact," he said. "We can't use harsh cleaning products or scrape or sand down the marks on the trees -- this would be making the apparent damage worse." 
 
He added that volunteers will use water-based cleaners that will take multiple applications.
 
"It can be a little like restoring a piece of artwork," he said. "There will inevitably be a ghost image of the cleaned areas until natural processes eventually cover them again.  We'll also evaluate options like painting over the marks with paint that closely matches the natural surroundings, but this of course only covers up what's underneath, which will eventually be re-exposed, and the paint will never perfectly match the surrounding colors or textures."
 
Anyone with information should contact Rebecca Barnes at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, rebecca.barnes@state.ma.us, or the Appalachian Mountain Club's local AT Management Committee at @amc-wma.org
 
"This generally easy hike along Sherman Brook was an opportunity for folks to get away from the normal day-to-day world and stress," Catalano said. "This vandalism has brought that world into the woods and is a reminder of what visitors are trying to get away from. It's unfortunate there are people in the community who have such unthinking disrespect for our natural and recreational resources that are available, free of charge, 24/7/365  for all who want to use them."       
 
Catalano said his group will organizing some cleanup events this spring to address the most obvious markings. These are open to anyone who would like to help out.
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