A recent inventory of signs posted along the Santa Fe Trail route in Marion County revealed that four signs and signposts have been vandalized or stolen in the past month.
Steve Schmidt, president of the Cottonwood Crossing chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association, reported the incidents in an April 1 letter to the sheriff’s department.
Schmidt said the signs, approved by the county commission, are located in county rights-of-way to guide people along the local tour route or indicate where the trail crosses public roads.
The signs and posts were paid for by the U.S. Department of the Interior and National Park Service and were erected using volunteer labor. The signs coast $40 each and the posts about $20 each, plus hardware. Voluntary dues to the chapter are used to replace damaged or stolen signs.
Last September, Schmidt discovered a sign .4 mile south of 330th Road that was knocked down. Schmidt said it appeared to have been hit by farm equipment, so it was not re-installed.
The four cases of vandalism that Schmidt learned about in the past month occurred just north of 330th Road on Quail Creek Road, on 330th next to the Tampa Cemetery, just south of 240th Road on Bison Road, and 2/3 mile south of 220th Road on Meridian Road.
The signs at the first two locations were left at the site and retrieved. The Crosses Here signpost on Bison Road was sawed off four feet above the ground, and the signs and top of the post were stolen. The Crosses Here sign and post on Meridian Road were completely stolen. The signs had several bullet holes in them when inspected on Sept. 1.
“”All of this is very discouraging because of the volunteer time and money it takes to replace these signs,” Schmidt said. “I know this is a very difficult crime to solve, but if any of the signs show up, they have definitely been stolen, as the National Park Service does not allow them to be sold. They are to be used as intended or destroyed or returned to the park service.”
If anyone can provide any help in identifying the perpetrators, please call the sheriff’s office at (620) 382-2144.