Sam Green, left, and Steve Buzzell of Waterville Parks and Recreation hold grinders Thursday while surveying the damage left after vandals used purple paint to cover part of the granite seating area at the amphitheater along the RiverWalk in Waterville. The granite seating area at the amphitheater was spray-painted purple with the words “Forever Loved PDA.” The men opted to use aircraft paint remover instead of the grinders to remove the paint. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Police are investigating vandalism at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls where graffiti was spray-painted on the amphitheater granite and at least one park bench was thrown over the railing and into the Kennebec River.

“That was recovered, and public works is going to work on removing the graffiti spray-painted on the granite stones on the amphitheater,” police Chief Joseph Massey said Thursday.

He said the activity occurred Friday or Saturday and there are no suspects in the case.

The $1.5 million RiverWalk, which includes a gazebo, the Ticonic sculpture, children’s play area, picnic tables and flower gardens, opened in 2018 off Front Street.

This was not the first case of vandalism at the RiverWalk since it opened. Massey said that over the summer, graffiti was painted on the gazebo, which the Public Works Department removed. Before that, one or two paving stones leading to the gazebo were dislodged and one was cracked. Public works replaced the cracked stone, he said.

“It’s very frustrating that people won’t respect the effort that went into the RiverWalk so everyone can enjoy it,” Massey said. “These crimes of opportunity are very, very difficult to solve. They generally happen in the late night hours or early morning hours when no one is looking.”

Police also have been dealing with vehicle burglaries, mostly in the South End area of the city, but some have occurred south of Kennedy Memorial Drive in the Seton Village area, around Louise Avenue and Carver Street, according to Massey.

“Since Sept. 1, we’ve had, like, 32 of those,” Massey said.

In some cases, catalytic converters were removed from vehicles, he said.

Mayor Jay Coelho made reference to the RiverWalk vandalism at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“I think that whoever is doing that should be ashamed,” Coelho said. “Our community has come together to give us a beautiful green space and spaces to walk, and we really don’t need people going down and destroying what we have built so that the rest of us can enjoy. If you have to be destructive, go home.”

Ken and Maria Fing of Waterville pass a seating area Thursday that vandals spray-painted at the amphitheater along the RiverWalk and Head of Fall in Waterville. The granite seating area at the amphitheater was spray-painted purple with the words “Forever Loved PDA.” Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

Coelho said most of the people arrested in the city “don’t even belong in Waterville. You come from other areas and our residents don’t typically care for that.”

Asked Thursday if the people committing the acts are from out of town, Massey said, “We have no knowledge of that. We don’t have any suspects, so obviously we don’t know who did it or where they’re from.”

At the council meeting, Coelho went on to say there have been vehicle break-ins in areas of the city where people are stealing items such as coins and cups.

“I want to remind people that although Waterville is a pretty liberal town, a lot of us have guns and if you walk onto our property, you are doing so at your own risk,” the mayor said at the meeting.

His last statement drew objection from Elizabeth Leonard, an author, educator and member of the Poor People’s Campaign, who had stood at the podium with Ashley Hebert with plans to talk about the housing crisis.

Wood has been broken out of a railing that is part of a platform at the amphitheater Thursday along the RiverWalk and Head of Fall in Waterville. The granite seating area at the amphitheater was spray painted. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“Your statement warning people that we have guns really makes me sick to my stomach,” Leonard told Coelho.

“I know, but we do,” Coelho said, as laughter could be heard among some people in the room.

“Well, that’s just so great,” Leonard said, “and it’s great you all think it’s so funny someone would be troubled by a statement like that.”

Instead of speaking about housing, she walked away from the podium.

Asked if he wanted to comment on Coelho’s statement about guns, Massey declined.

 

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