ROTTERDAM — When several Schenectady residents discovered that the Plotter Kill Preserve trail head off Mariaville Road had been vandalized, a group of long-time friends took matters into their own hands.
They simply erased the damage.
Sometime over the past weekend, vandals spray painted graffiti, some of it vulgar, on the walking bridge near one end of the Rotterdam Long Path Bicentennial trail.
“I saw it on Facebook,” Mikayla Schaefer said. “I saw it shared by a couple of friends and I immediately sent it to Mike [Schaefer].
“I said this is so annoying and he was like ‘Oh my god, I’m going over there right now.’”
Her brother Mike Schaefer was not alone in his outrage.
“I was really taken back, I was angry,” he said. “I showed a couple of my friends.
“I read a couple more articles and I said I have to go do this. I gathered a couple friends, they bought some paint, brushes, I picked up a couple garbage bags. Went down there and they got pretty close to matching the color of the wood with the paint, which was cool. We covered it up, probably took a half hour.”
The quartet of Schalmont High School graduates and lifelong friends, Schaefer, Ryan Little, Alec Matuszak and Vinny Croce eliminated any sign of the vandalism.
There wasn’t a lot of discussion that the quartet was going to spring into action.
“They were discussing it in a group chat,” Schaefer said. “Then they said they were going to pick some paint and stuff and help you paint over it.”
He said the group’s efforts were not fully endorsed by the town.
“I knew any real fix if it went to the town, usually things move slower there,” Schaefer said. “It would take a little while and you have families with small children with vulgar words painted on the bridge. You don’t want that. It’s not good for a family environment, which that is.”
He said the foursome’s actions could be considered as illegal in some way.
“I went there with my friends knowing full well that we were essentially doing the same thing that they did, painting on public property, vandalizing,” Schaefer said. “It would fall on my shoulders if that went that way. I doubt it because we were trying to fix the wrong-doing.”
But he did find support from Nick Klemczak, interim manager at Schenectady County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“I’s heartening to hear that four young men had taken their time and money and react so quickly to this unfortunate act of vandalism,” he said via email.
“I also had other folks reach out to me wanting to volunteer their time to clean up the bridge.
“It was great to see so many people wanting to help the preserves out when something so cruel happened. It shows how special these places are to the majority of the users.”
The entire Long Path is a 358-mile hiking trail from the George Washington Bridge to Whiteface Mountain. It was conceived by the family’s patriarch, Vincent Schaefer, in 1930. He was the grandfather to Mikayla and Michael Schaefer.
The call to action from Schaefer and his friends did not surprise his parents, Kim and Jim Schaefer, the Rotterdam town historian
Mikayla Schaefer, Kim, and friend Carmen Brooks-Mulyca recently walked the five-mile bicentennial trail, one of the first to cover the 5-mile stretch.
“Mikayla painted all the kiosks and we go over there every week to check on it and put new maps in,” Kim Schaefer said. “Then we walked all the trails, put up the trail markers.”
The vandalism was a personal affront to the family.
“Its important to protect the wildlife and everything like that to us,” Mikayla said. “That’s what we grew up with. “We didn’t go to Disney World or theme parks when we were younger. We grew up with nature and finding entertainment and love in nature, instead of amusement parks and stuff. It’s important to us to keep it safe and family friendly.”