ROCK FALLS – The Storybook Trail is still open, but the stories are no longer there.
Vandals damaged most of the 32 cases used to exhibit the pages of the featured books.
“All but three of the Plexiglas covers were destroyed, so at this point, there’s no way to display the stories,” said Alderman Jim Schuneman, who heads of the city’s canal and trails committee. The panel worked with the University of Illinois Extension Service to make the trail a reality.
The half-mile trail extends from Avenue D near Linville Crossing to McNeil Road. When it was dedicated on Oct. 8, 2015, it was the first permanent trail of its kind in Illinois.
Schuneman said it looked as if someone shot holes through the cases then ripped away large chunks of plastic.
The vandalism occurred sometime between Friday evening and Tuesday morning, when Extension Program Director Mary Nelson discovered the damage.
This isn’t the first time vandals hit the area, but things had been quiet for a while, Schuneman said. The stories had been available year round, and the books were changed in accordance with the season.
“There’s been some vandalism on the bridge, and when we put birdhouses along the trail, they disappeared almost immediately,” Schuneman said.
Eagle Scouts had set up the poles for the books and built the birdhouses that were swiped.
Mayor Bill Wescott said the books could return the week of Sept. 18, in time for an event Nelson has planned that week with teachers and parents. Extension works closely with teachers, developing educational packets that help with lesson planning.
The incident was reported to police, and they plan to bump up patrols of the trail area. City officials are having discussions about how they can better protect the books, but options such as more lighting for better surveillance can be costly, the mayor said.
“We’re trying to figure something out, but when people go to so much trouble to rip them down, it becomes an exercise in futility,” Wescott said. “There are screws put into boards and those have even been loosened.”
Anyone with any information on the vandalism is asked to call Rock Falls police at 815-622-1140, or Whiteside County Crime Stoppers at 815-625-7867.