PORT ANGELES — The Olympic Kiwanis Club encourages the public to be vigilant after 34 holiday light strings on poles and trees in the Port Angeles downtown were vandalized last week.
“Watch out for suspicious activity,” said Tim Crowley of the Olympic Kiwanis Club over the phone Saturday.
The club contracts with the Port Angeles Downtown Association (PADA) to install and maintain the lighting during the holiday season.
“The only way we are going to get it stopped is to catch the people in the act,” Crowley said.
The Port Angeles Police Department is aware of the vandalism and is investigating, Police Chief Brian Smith said Friday.
“Tim completed a report,” Smith said. “We have no additional leads or suspects at this time.”
Smith “called me up personally [Friday] night and was apologetic and said they were doing their best and keeping an eye out and checking surveillance,” Crowley said. “It is something they are definitely on top of.”
According to Crowley, 28 light strings were vandalized sometime between 7 p.m. last Sunday and early Wednesday evening. The club replaced them with lights from PADA. Six additional light strings were vandalized Friday.
“When we went down Friday [evening], we discovered more vandalism,” he said.
The lights were located on poles and trees on Oak Street between Front and First Streets, on Front Street between Oak and Laurel streets, and on Laurel Street between First Street and Railroad Avenue.
In some areas, holiday light strings were ripped apart, leaving bare wires exposed, a potential shock hazard, Crowley said.
“I have never seen such blatant vandalism in the 20-plus years our Olympic Kiwanis Club has been doing the holiday lights for the PADA,” Crowley said.
“There have been entire winters where we have had fewer than a dozen trees and poles damaged in this manner, and to have this magnitude of destruction done in just three days leaves me very upset.”
PADA board President Young Johnson said Friday that a person or persons appeared to be walking by and pulling at bulbs, which pulls entire light strings off the downtown streetlight poles.
“It’s awful to be so destructive,” she said. “It’s really sad that people are trying to work so hard to beautify the downtown and fill it with holiday spirit, and someone goes by and thinks it’s funny to vandalize the lights.”
Since the mid-1990s, Olympic Kiwanis Club volunteers have put in an accumulation of about 325 hours per holiday season putting up the lights, maintaining them and then taking them down, according to the Kiwanis Club.
The lights are installed prior to Thanksgiving as the leaves are falling off the trees and are maintained for about three months. They are removed in mid-February.
Each year, the Olympic Kiwanis install approximately 45,000 clear lights on roughly 90 light poles and an additional 90 trees in the central downtown corridor, the club said.
The downtown lighting project is a major fundraiser for the club. Funds from PADA go toward such endeavors as Camp Beausite Northwest, a summer camp for those with special needs; high school scholarships; the annual Kids Fishing Derby; and the Port Angeles Food Bank.
“The PADA spends a lot of money and likewise the Olympic Kiwanis spends a lot of time to make our downtown bright and festive during the holidays,” Crowley said.
“Let us work together to keep some ill-minded grinches from wrecking it for the rest of us.”
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.