| Sep 17, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - September 17, 2009 Vandalism strikes MERABy Jeff Green

MERA administrator Hilary Barrett point to the mural, damaged by vandalism.

A mural that has graced the side of the Lanark Highlands Township garage in McDonalds Corners has been slashed and cut up repeatedly in recent weeks, and a police investigation has been launched.

The vandalism has spread to the grounds of the McDonalds Corners Elphin Recreation Association (MERA) Schoolhouse, which is located across the parking lot from the garage.

Pieces of the mural, which was created in 2004 as part of MERA’s Nordic Festival, were found to have been cut out and left lying around on two or three occasions this past spring, but MERA members were able to fix them back to the mural.

Nothing happened as the summer wore on, until the Mississippi River Heritage Festival took place in August. When MERA volunteers were cleaning up after the festival, they found that a port-a-potty that was rented for the festival had been cut, causing $400 worth of damage.

Since then more damage has been done to the mural, and to the MERA building and grounds.

A couple of weeks ago a hose by the side of the building was turned on and left to run for over a day, causing flooding in the basement. More damage was also done to the mural, and the screens on the building were slashed.

Police were called in, and they launched an investigation.

On Saturday morning, September 12, as vendors arrived for the weekly market day at the site, they found that more pieces of the mural had been removed, including the image of a pig, which had been stuck up a tree in front of the building. A cedar tripod, which was part of a shanty display left over from the festival, had been placed on the roof of the shanty, and there were several gashes in the mural itself.

“We're very concerned,” said MERA Board Chair Tom Shoebridge, “this is public property that is owned by the community. It gives the hamlet a bad name, associating everybody with one or two vandals. When something like this happens regularly you have to assume it is someone local.”

Shoebridge said that some of the damage has been done at a height of over 6 ft. from the ground, so he does not suspect that younger children are responsible.

“At first we were advised to let it be, and hope that it was isolated, but all that has changed with these repeated acts,” he said. “With regard to the mural, it is quite fragile and we've had it for all these years with a lot of co-operation from the public works department. The whole thing is disheartening.”

MERA was founded when the former one-room schoolhouse, which had been converted to the township office for the Township of Lavant – Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke, became a surplus building because of municipal amalgamation in 1998.

A community group was established to renovate the building and turn it into an arts and cultural centre. MERA hosts events on a year round basis. It is the location for a Christmas craft show, a summer farmers market, and has been the hub for several large festivals over the past 10 years.

“We've had people come from hundreds of miles to visit MERA over the years,” said Shoebridge. “It has helped put McDonalds Corners on the map.” 

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