A beautiful sunny day, a short hike around a gorgeous Whatcom County lake and 20 signs along the trail with big, colorful illustrated pages from a children's book — it seemed like an easy way to not only get children active outdoors during the summer but also help stoke their enthusiasm to read.
Unfortunately, it has become more of a headache than Friends of the South Whatcom Library board member Mary Haslam expected when the Sudden Valley Community Association allowed her to post story boards along Sudden Valley's trail around Lake Louise during the month of June.
After returning from a vacation last week, Haslam said she found many of the signs missing and others vandalized.
"Some were taken down and a couple were torn — they're made out of corrugated plastic, so they'd be hard to tear," Haslam said. "Some of them were thrown in the weeds, and I still don't know what happened to about half of them."
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Haslam said she posted an apology on Facebook and contacted the community association and made sure the remaining signs were removed and put in storage.
"I don't know exactly who would want to harm children's story boards along a walking trail," association General Manger Mitch Waterman said. "Unfortunately, we didn't have any security cameras in the area."
In response, the association has offered a $500 reward for information leading to the identification and arrest of the vandal.
This is the second time somebody has taken down the story boards. Shortly after the story trail went up on June 1, some of the signs began to disappear. A security camera in the area caught a picture of a person removing them, Waterman said, and it turned out to be a special needs person in the area. After a talk with their guardian, the signs went back up unharmed. Waterman said the most recent vandalism is believed to have been done by someone different.
The illustrated pages on the story boards are from "Totem Tale: A Tall Story from Alaska" by Deb Vanasse — a story of animals on a totem pole coming to life at night and the antics they would get up to.
"At the end, there is some confusion about who goes on top," Haslam said. "But they get it all sorted out in order because of what they do for humans. It's a lovely story."
The story boards were made by the Friends of the Lynden Library, Haslam said, and loaned to the Friends of the South Whatcom Library to be displayed until June 30.
"This is new for us," Haslam said. "The has been a project of other libraries around the country. I did a fair amount of research on it before moving ahead. Other areas have seen similar issues of vandalism, which is sad. This should be a nice thing for kids to enjoy."