News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters trails vandals caught on camera

About six months ago Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) changed their logo and set about applying it to hundreds of trail marker signs on its 192-mile network. The decals were positioned over the existing ones, an easier chore than having to remove the originals first. Since that time vandals have systematically and steadfastly removed the new decals.

In warmer weather, the removal of the new badge generally did not harm the original ones while reexposing their design. Now, in the cold of winter, peeling off the new decal generally damages the underlying one leaving an unsightly appearance as shown in the photo.

The cost to STA has been considerable. Apart from around $800 in replacement and repair costs, hundreds of volunteer hours have been lost. In the process donors and the 175 volunteers who gave 2,800 hours in 2022 have been disheartened.

“We thought we could just overwhelm them with our numbers, and eventually they’d give up,” said Scott Penzarella, STA executive director.

“This is an insult to the hardworking volunteers who year-round strive to make great trails. Our mission is to build and maintain trails to connect users, not to spend time dealing with misguided vandals.”

A U.S. Forest Service camera has captured a pair, a mature adult couple, in the act.

“They will be known to any number of people were we to release their photo,” Penzarella said. “Along with their dog, they are unmistakable.”

The STA is not looking to have the couple prosecuted, provided they come forward and promise to stop their behavior and reimburse STA for its costs.

“We will keep their names anonymous. Our intent is not to hold them up for ridicule, but this must stop,” Penzarella said.

The penalties for such vandalism can be stiff: up to six months imprisonment or $500 (per offense) or both. The STA stewards the trails under a partnership arrangement with the Forest Service, which ultimately has arrest or citation authority.

The Nugget asked Penzarella what he thought the vandals’ motivation was. He had no ready answer but speculated that the couple and others who have engaged in the act disapprove of the new look and/or direction of STA, which has rebranded itself as STA 2.0.

The Nugget has reported previously that the new design has not been warmly embraced by all trail users. In the original logo of three words, “Sisters” was spelled out, offering clarity that the famed trail system was rooted in Sisters. The new imagery has just the letters S-T-A.

Daily trail user Dixie Patterson is one of those not pleased with the new logo.

“It doesn’t say Sisters as it should,” she said. “It was built with lots of Sisters sweat and blisters. It belongs to Sisters and not some wider universe. We’re happy to share it, but Sisters should always get credit for how special a gift this is.”

Dean Weller, a regular on the Peterson Ridge trails with his dog Scooter lamented, “Why does every institution now have to get watered down and be reduced to acronyms or buzz words?”

Weller speculates that the vandals are disgruntled volunteers or former volunteers and not just pranksters.

Penzarella is considering a public forum to invite citizens to come forward and share their opinions or concerns about the Alliance’s work or direction. Penzarella said that he hopes that can happen quickly to avoid further vandalism or misunderstanding of their mission and vision. STA is committed to the rebranding and will not be revisiting their decision, Penzarella said.

Meanwhile STA is asking trail users to stay off the trails when they are muddy. They have posted seasonal signs at the most popular trailheads, which are clear in the warning to avoid damaging trail beds. Walking early in the morning before thawing will greatly reduce the need for trail restoration come spring.


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