River Park temporarily closed to public after vandalism

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2022 9:28:07 PM
Modified: 1/3/2022 9:27:27 PM

WEST LEBANON — The company that owns the River Park development has closed the property to the public after two acts of vandalism in the past week.

The 38-acre property off Route 10 is owned by Lyme Properties and there are roughly two miles of trails along the Connecticut River where people can cross country ski and snowshoe during the winter.

“I want to be clear that this is a temporary response while we address the incidents and that we remain deeply committed to public access and trails not only at River Park but throughout West Lebanon,” Chet Clem, president of Lyme Properties, said in a phone interview Monday.

The first incident took place around Thursday, Clem said, and involved graffiti spray-painted on fence scrim — essentially a banner — attached to a chain link fence. Afterward, Clem posted a request to Facebook asking the public for information about it. He offered a $1,000 reward for information about the person or people responsible.

“We have an informal agreement with the community about public access. I’d like to solve this in a community way too,” Clem said. “It’s extremely disappointing and disheartening.”

Then, Monday morning, while stopping by River Park, Clem noticed that another fence scrim had been vandalized, this one advertising community access to the park and containing a piece of artwork made by Clem’s son. That was when Clem decided to temporarily block access until more security measures can be installed. While the police have been notified and a report filed, the reward for information leading to those responsible still stands.

“My preference was and continues to be to solve this quietly and without police involvement,” Clem said. “I think it’s a waste of their time.”

Lebanon Police Chief Phil Roberts confirmed that the Lebanon Police Department is investigating the incidents. So far, officers believe it is unrelated to the damage on New Year’s Eve, when three teenagers are suspected of shooting a BB gun at the windows of businesses in Lebanon and Hartford.

“The biggest thing with this is if you see something suspicious we ask you to call us immediately so we can check it out,” Roberts said.

Clem said that while there have been acts of vandalism, trespassing and even small fires at River Park in the roughly 14 years of its existence, these incidents stand out because of the close timeline.

“I think my response to the vandalism is going to be art,” he said. “We’re going to look to facilitate impactful and productive public art.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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