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Mud Pond Trail vandalized early Friday morning

Vandals ripped apart about 60 percent of the white cedar hand railings on the handicapped-accessible Mud Pond Trail off Route 116 in Jefferson at 3 a.m. of Friday, April 6, making unsafe the trail that is enjoyed by many local residents, some in wheelchairs, some using walkers or canes, and some pushing strollers. The trail is temporarily closed. Photo by David Govatski. (click for larger version)
April 12, 2012
JEFFERSON — The Mud Pond Trail off Route 116 in the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge in Whitefield and Jefferson is temporarily closed.

Vandals struck at about 3 a.m. on Friday, April 6, damaging trail sideboards and 60 percent of the wood railings on the 800-foot-long elevated boardwalk, as well as other features designed to make the .6-mile walk into Mud Pond accessible to outdoor enthusiasts who are physically handicapped.

The trail to a small backcountry pond opened this past summer after hours of work over several years by full-time U.S. Fish and Wildlife employee Jamie Savage of Jefferson, many volunteers, including David Govatski of Jefferson and Dick Mallion of Whitefield, plus paid seasonal high-school-aged Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) workers.

"Several cars arrived to use the trail, and they were deeply saddened by this vandalism," reported Govatski on Friday afternoon while roping off the trailhead. "The people it will hurt the most are those in wheelchairs who love this trail, and the many folks who have disabilities and want a short hike to a beautiful place." Workers on their lunch break also use the walk during the week, as well as those who just need to stretch their legs. Guests staying at the Mountain View Grand also enjoy the trail and chance to see the some of the 5,000-plus acres in the Refuge.

The trailhead kiosk was also vandalized; its Plexiglas roof was smashed, and its display cases broken.

N.H. State Police Trooper Matt Favreau of Troop F responded to the 911 call made by a neighbor who was awoken by the noise of destruction, but the culprits were already gone when he arrived in his cruiser.

USFWS Special Investigator Eddy Edwards (eddy_edwards@fws.gov) has also been assigned to help figure out the vandals' identities.

Anyone with any knowledge about this crime is asked to telephone Troop F at 846-3333.

Andrew French, project manager of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge of which Pondicherry is a part, said that both as a citizen and as a federal employee he is "very upset" to think that the work done by so many had been vandalized.

"It's just plain wrong; I keep thinking of all the work done by Jamie Savage and David Govatski, many volunteers, and those hard-working high school YCC kids," French said in a Friday afternoon telephone interview. "Law enforcement will vigorously pursue this crime."

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