- Associated Press - Sunday, October 8, 2017

SHEFFIELD, Ala. (AP) - Shanna Vandiver is a frequent visitor on the Old Railroad Bridge walking trail, occasionally bringing her 3-year-son.

When she does, she also brings a small can of white paint to paint over any unsightly or offensive graffiti.

“The graffiti doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s not vulgar or offensive,” Vandiver said.

She said her 3-year-old son enjoys looking at the colorful painting of a fish on one of the walls.

“Some people think this is artwork, and I admit some of it is good,” said Sheffield Police Chief Greg Ray. “But, like anything else, there are those who push things to the limit and instead of putting their name or initial on the walls, they get vulgar.

“The bottom line is, this is private property and what is being done is vandalism.”

The Old Railroad Bridge Company is a not-for-profit company that owns and maintains the bridge.

The Old Railroad Bridge is located on the oldest bridge site in Alabama. The existing bridge was built in the late 1800s. It was last used for automobile transportation in 1939, and for train traffic in 1988.

“It’s history and we are trying to preserve that history,” said Dave Reasons, a member of the Old Railroad Bridge Company.

Members of the organization routinely clean the walls and the brick pavers, and Sheffield police try to keep an eye on the goings on there, but still the graffiti keeps coming.

Because the bridge is on the Alabama Historical Registry, anyone caught defacing the bridge property is subject to a $400 fine.

“Our guys try to get down here as much as they can during the day and at night,” Ray said during a recent visit to the bridge. “We have caught people before vandalizing the walls, but it is hard.”

He said because of the location and the fact that the officers have to get out and walk down to the bridge to check it, “We don’t get here as much as others places in town where we may go by a dozen times a day.”

“But we still make patrols here as often as possible because there is a curfew of 11 p.m.”

Reasons said cameras have been placed at the bridge in an effort to catch vandals.

“TVA built the steps (leading down to the river) and taggers have hit those,” Reasons said. “Some of the cut stones on the bridge are 120 years old or older and they have been tagged.”

He said the organization is looking into the possibility of using anti-graffiti paint on the property, but it is pricey at $90 a gallon.

He is meeting with a local graffiti artist next week to discuss the possibility of having a train motif painted at the bridge after they get everything cleaned up.

Reasons said he appreciates what the police are doing and wants to continue to work with them.

“It goes beyond the graffiti. They have broken boards on the walkway, and even pulled up in the parking lot and just cleaned all the trash out of their cars and left it there on the ground,” Reasons said.

“This bridge is special,” Ray said. “It’s a major part of the history of this area, and it needs to be preserved, cared for, not vandalized. We’re committed to working with the Old Railroad Bridge Company to do all we can to stop the vandalism. And if we catch someone, they will be prosecuted to the fullest.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/


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