By Chris Hagan
Review Staff Writer
On any given day on Paint Creek Trail you’ll see families walking, cyclists practicing for their next competition, and horseback riders exercising their prized thoroughbreds.
But in a small section of the trail near Kern and Clarkston Road, vandalism remains the activity that has township officials frustrated.
Just north of the bridge connecting the two roads, is a stretch of trail tagged with spray painted profanity and graffiti.
As recently as Aug. 31, photos provided by Orion Township show four individuals, appearing to be teenagers, approach the trail sign while two of them were holding what appears to be cans of spray paint. The next photo shows the four individuals walking away and the sign has a four-letter word painted on it.
Parks Director Aaron Whatley, who’s been working on plans to get the entire section of the crumbled Rudd’s Mill removed, is furious over the most recent graffiti and says it’s a definite black eye for the trail.
“It’s ridiculous and it’s such a disrespectful act for the trail and everyone that goes to enjoy it,” Whatley said. “The trail has so much history and natural beauty, and to see it vandalized is atrocious.”
Throughout that area trees have been tagged with random sayings, fence posts have been sprayed and the graffiti continues on the broken concrete slabs down by the creek.
According to both Whatley and Oakland County Sheriff’s Lt. Dan Toth, the property the vandals are spray painting is public, so all repairs and cleaning have to be made with tax payer dollars. Toth said that in the last three years over a dozen people have been charged with malicious damage that resulted in criminal records.
“This is a 90-day misdemeanor with fines up to $500, plus restitution, which could add thousands,” Toth said. “This year has seen an improvement in incidents, however OCSO has a zero tolerance for these type crimes.”
Whatley is working with the Clinton River Watershed and Trout Unlimited to remove a smaller crumbled section of another dam north of the graffiti area. The project will begin this weekend and he also says he’s working with the same group to remove the larger concrete slabs that have become a haven for vandalism.
He says it’s a massive undertaking but one that is a necessity. It involves getting several permits from the DEQ, bringing in heavy machinery, addressing erosion control effort and a large crew to remove the thousands of pounds of concrete.
“My own goal is to have everything removed and restored to its natural habitat in five years but that’s assuming everything goes smooth,” Whatley said. “Until then we’re taking every effort we can to reduce the vandalism. We have cameras throughout the trail, DNR is installing cameras, and us as well as the DNR and OCSO have all increased patrols.”
By Chris Hagan