A stone monument to George Washington that has stood in Manito Park for 70 years is being irreparably defaced a piece at a time.
The monument was dedicated in 1932 by members of the Esther Reed Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Two bronze plaques adorned the monument and were pried off and stolen last summer. One plaque was a profile bust of Washington. The other was a plaque recognizing the DAR for its sponsorship of the monument.
“I think it’s deplorable,” said Carmen Hagman, a member of the chapter.
“I haven’t had the heart to go look,” said Hagman, a descendant of patriot Hezekiah Manning, who lived in Windham, Conn.
The monument is located southwest of the park sledding hill on a secluded walkway that runs from the duck pond east and south to Manito Place. It commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Washington on Feb. 22, 1732.
The theft is more aggravating because the original bust of Washington was stolen in an early vandalism incident several years ago.
The DAR chapter raised $400 and paid to replace the plaque during a rededication ceremony last July. Now the second plaque is gone.
While plaques can be replaced, the engraving that tells the significance of the monument is being irreparably damaged.
Vandals have used screwdrivers or other tools to chip off the edges of the recessed letters so that the words are increasingly obliterated.
Parks Director Mike Stone said he has no idea who is responsible for the criminal behavior, but it may be related to ongoing vandalism at Manito Park.
Since last summer, the park has been targeted by nighttime joy riders who have driven across park lawns and flower beds, causing repeated damage.
New landscaping installed near the duck pond hadn’t had a chance to spread roots before vandals damaged the lawn and beds last November. City park crews responded by installing temporary concrete barriers near a newly created traffic circle at the duck pond.
One of two adult swans died after being injured in the head about the same time. The swan, named Helen, left behind her mate, Philip, after the pair produced three cygnets last summer.
The swans were named after their park benefactors, Philip Alexander, who died in 1996, and his wife, Helen.
The most recent park vandalism occurred last weekend when someone dug deep tire ruts in the soft grass near a new set of play equipment.
“You don’t know what triggered it, but it’s got to stop,” Stone said.
Law enforcement authorities are seeking prosecution of juveniles caught driving on park lawns last summer, he said.
There may be some hope for stopping the damage, Stone said.
The Parks Department recently received a $3,000 donation from a Spokane family to help pay for improved security at the park.
Stone said he and his staff are considering what steps to take, including the possibility of buying additional security devices or stepping up nighttime patrols.
Parks staff may be forced to remove the monument from its secluded location to a more visible spot, he said.
Members of the Manito/Cannon Hill Neighborhood Council will talk about the issue of park vandalism at the council’s January meeting next Thursday at Wilson School at 7 p.m.
Stone said he has been invited to the meeting and will ask neighbors to help with park security.