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Troopers investigating vandalism at newly opened trail in Delta Junction

Delta Junction Trails Association
On the morning of Sept. 11, the opening day of the River Walk Park trail, members of the Delta Junction Trails Association discovered that vandals had pulled down one of the posts at the trailhead. The chain laying on the ground was suspended from the posts to deter people from driving vehicles onto the trail.

Alaska State Troopers are investigating vandalism on a newly opened trail in Delta Junction. The gate at the River Walk Park trailhead was damaged and stolen — the second time it's been vandalized since the trail opened Sept. 11.

A couple of months ago, nearly a hundred people turned out to celebrate the opening of the new River Walk Park trail. Volunteers spent countless hours for more than a year roughing-out the trail, then working with state agencies and nonprofits to raise funds that they used to, among other things, pay a Fairbanks-based firm, Happy Trails Inc., to lay out and build it. The non-motorized multi-use and multi-season trail winds through a stretch of boreal forest along the banks of the Delta River just north of town.

But vandals celebrated that grand opening in their own way by knocking down the gate at the trailhead.

Delta Junction Trails Association
Members of the Delta Junction Trails Association repaired the gate before the Sept. 11 grand opening of the River Walk Park trail. This photo was taken 10 days later.

“That time, they just pulled out the post and left the chain and the gate mechanism there,” says Steve McCombs, the board secretary of the Delta Junction Trails Association. Members of the organization have for years been promoting development of the River Walk trail and others around the Delta area.

McCombs was one of the members who repaired the gate on that September morning, so the vandalism wouldn’t be on display on the trail’s opening day. Last week, he returned to the scene of the crime, to check out the vandals’ latest handiwork.

Delta Junction Trails Association
On Oct. 24, hikers found that the gate had again been torn down -- and this time, the chain and one of the posts were stolen.

“This time, they pulled the chain, the post and our lock on it, and it disappeared,” he said in an interview Monday.

McCombs says vandals yanked the post out of the ground, probably with a pickup, and apparently stole it and the gate attached to it. He says the Trails Association reported the damage to the city, which owns the property, and city officials in turn notified Alaska State Troopers, who are investigating. McCombs encourages anyone with information to call Troopers. Meanwhile, the Trails Association has come up with a permanent solution to the problem.

“We have a new, heavy-duty metal gate,” he said, “and we’ll put that in in the spring.”

McCombs and other Trails Association members think it’ll be OK to leave the River Walk trail without a gate through the winter, because they assume it’s unlikely the vandals will want to take a joyride while the trail is covered with deep snow.

And he says this time, trail users and others will be watching the trail closely for any sign of suspicious activity.

Editor's note: This story was revised to clarify that Delta Junction Trails Association volunteers did initial work on the River Walk Park trail, and Fairbanks-based Happy Trails Inc. laid-out and built the trail with funds raised by the Trails Association.

Tim Ellis has been working as a KUAC reporter/producer since 2010. He has more than 30 years experience in broadcast, print and online journalism.