NOT THE HIGHEST OR BEST USE OF A TREE – The vandals who tagged this tree, whether local or out of town, lack respect for this oak, this community and the long human and natural history that nurture both. They have done a bad thing on North Sixth Street, at the end of the school campus and skate park. – Photo by Bill Reynolds
NOT THE HIGHEST OR BEST USE OF A TREE – The vandals who tagged this tree, whether local or out of town, lack respect for this oak, this community and the long human and natural history that nurture both. They have done a bad thing on North Sixth Street, at the end of the school campus and skate park. – Photo by Bill Reynolds

A recent rash of graffiti vandalism in La Conner, where targets have included community hub Maple Hall and a venerable large oak tree, is not so much disturbing for its appearance as it is for who might be responsible. 

There are indications the tagging might relate to gang activity, Sgt. Jeff Willard, who administers the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office La Conner detachment, said last week. 

Willard said the numeral “360” spray-painted on the landmark tree near the skate park off North First Street and the words “Westside Piru” tagged next to Maple Hall reflect gang monikers. 

“It is unknown who exactly is responsible for the graffiti,” Willard said, “but the numbers do relate to local gang activity.” 

“The tagging (next to - ed.) Maple Hall did not include the 360 symbol,” he added. “The tagging said ‘Westside Piru,’ which is a gang name.” 

The Town Public Works crew immediately began graffiti removal at the building. 

“Jeff will tell you that one of the best ways to deter further graffiti is to remove it as soon as possible,” Mayor Ramon Hayes told the Weekly News Saturday. 

Public Works Director Brian Lease said tagging on the old oak is more problematic, however, because the process of paint removal can damage the tree’s bark. 

La Conner resident Kathryn Aiken has offered to lead a volunteer group, guided by the counsel of arborists, and committed to safely removing the graffiti. 
But even the best of efforts may not be successful, Lease indicated in remarks to Town Council members at their Aug. 25 meeting. 

“The unfortunate thing,” Lease said, “is we can’t do a lot with that tree. I’m afraid it’s going to stay like that.” 

Hayes, though, is confident something can be done to curb the more broad issue of vandalism going forward. He is revisiting the option of creating a citizen’s patrol here for those shifts when sheriff’s deputies are out of town. 

The volunteer patrol would be supervised by the sheriff’s office, he said. 

Because of that, Hayes stressed, concerns about overzealous vigilante tactics emerging are unfounded. 

“It’s a non-issue in my opinion,” said Hayes. “There are plenty of other communities that have formed citizen patrols and have done so quite effectively.” 
Hayes also said the Town is on the sheriff’s office list for acquisition of a surplus vehicle that could be used for night-time patrols and be strategically parked during the day to discourage speeding and other traffic violations. 

The earliest a sheriff’s office vehicle would become available is January or February, Hayes said. 

As for the latest round of local graffiti, it remains unclear whether it is related to the tagging that targeted the Morris Street public restrooms a year ago. They are now closed, due to pandemic-caused budget tightening. 

A handicap access port-a-potty has been placed in front of the restrooms on a temporary basis. 

“We’ll re-look at opening the Morris Street restrooms next year,” Town Administrator Scott Thomas told the Council.