A simple monument honouring a woman who died in a massive 1968 landslide in Fort Smith, and the families that survived, was defaced just a month after it was put up.
Brown paint was poured over the plaque, dribbling down onto the rock it is mounted upon.
“I just don’t know where they’re coming from,” says Toni Heron, a survivor of the landslide.
Heron was a member of the committee that put together the memorial and held an event in early August to mark 50 years since the landslide destroyed homes, power infrastructure and killed beloved community member Kay Ferguson.
Soon after the vandalism occurred, photos of it began circulating on social media, prompting dozens of comments describing it as an extremely disrespectful and bewildering act.
RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon stated the incident was not reported to police, so an investigation is not underway.
“It’s something that the people of Fort Smith should be very proud of, to see a place like this,” says Heron.
While she said the event – and increasing amounts of vandalism and petty crime in Fort Smith – has her wondering about what values are being taught to today’s youth, it was heartening to see volunteers come and clean up the monument as best as they could.
“You can still see paint between the letters and on the rock,” she says, adding that this will soon be cleaned up.
Heron says it was hard to see such damage done to something so many people put hard work into. She highlighted Fort Smith Construction, which laid down the rock and the cement base for a nearby bench, as well as Town of Fort Smith, which landscaped the area.
She said the organizing committee itself put a lot of work into researching the names to go on the plaque, making sure they were spelled right, and organizing the event.
“It took a lot of hard work.”
Despite this incident, Heron says the bench and memorial have been a great addition to the community. She says she sees people sitting on the bench, enjoying the view of the Slave River, whenever she drives by.
“I sit at the bench and I remember my childhood years growing up in that area and starting my family there,” she says. “There are many more who would have continued to live in area and raise their families there. It is such a beautiful place but it’s now a memory with only a rock, plaque, and a bench with a beautiful view to reminisce.”
“We will clean it up so everyone can enjoy the beauty,” she says.