Vandals left a spray-painted trail of racist insults, swastikas and obscene images up and down the scenic Neponset Greenway this weekend, leaving state officials scrambling to clean-up the mess and neighbors outraged by the graphic destruction of public property.
State workers were out on the trail on Tuesday morning painting over the graffiti, which included slurs against gays, African-Americans and multiple swastikas. The graffiti was tagged on park benches, two MBTA stations on the Mattapan High-Speed trolley lines, trees and several colorful murals that have been created along the trail in recent years.
Gary Stephens, an MBTA worker who was called in to paint over the offensive images, said that one such mural between Butler and Milton trolley stops - created several years ago by artists hired by the Boston Natural Areas Network - was covered in swastikas.
"The whole wall down there had graffiti all over it. One of the murals down there had nothing but swastikas on it. They demolished the mural there. We had to wipe it out because it looked so bad," said Stephens.
Graffiti has been a periodic nuisance along the trail before, but this most recent episode was particularly offensive and widespread. The vandals hit multiple spots along the bike trail from Port Norfolk to Milton.
"They had spray painted graffiti all over the railroad bridge that I had just done last year," said Stephen Kennedy, a DCR worker who lives in Savin Hill. "I rushed up this morning to clear out the graffiti and there's still more down here.
"[At] Pope John Paul (Park) they did all the shade shelters, all the columns. Oh man, they went right through everything, they really did. All the way down to Taylor Street."
Stephens says that many people are using the trail with the warm weather â€” and have stopped to thank him for covering up the graffiti.
"A lot of people stop me and say 'I am so glad you covered that up, because we walk with our children down here, we're really grateful to have you our here doing this."
Valerie Burns, executive director of the Boston Natural Areas Network, vowed to restore the murals that have been damaged.
"For us it's a little bit of a challenge with the artwork. We try to have someone go out with some skills to cover the graffiti and restore the mural. But, if it's really offensive, it needs to be covered quickly."
Burns says that the walls along the trail have occasionally been targeted by vandals, but said that recently the murals had been spared.
"Vandals usually hit the blank walls and hit the artwork less," Burns said. "It's the same pattern. We've seen the swastikas and body parts every once in a while. There seems to be some group or individual who show up from time to time."
"We'll do everything we can to restore the artwork that's been damaged as quickly as we can," Burns said.
Reporter publisher Ed Forry contributed to this report.