LACONIA — The colorful illustrations from the ''Bear Wants More'' children's story which have been vandalized in recent months along the Story Trail portion of the WOW Trail have been restored thanks to the efforts of dedicated trail users.
Deanne Murphy, president of the Altrusa Club of Laconia, says that Peter Merrill of Lakeport has restored the damaged illustrations, many of which were recovered by Bob McCarthy, a frequent walker on the trail whose French Begar Picard ''Beau'' is well-known to other trail walkers.
Murphy said that many of the illustrations were defaced with lewd words and pictures and says she can't understand why anyone would be so mean and uncaring that they would destroy something meant to bring joy and happiness to children using the trail with their families.
She said the project cost the club $1,000 to purchase and install along the pathway and is part of the club's effort to promote literacy.
The illustrations went up along the WOW Trail on Saturday May 16, in conjunction with the Gale to Goss Library Community Walk, with 32 of them placed along the entire length of trail.
Murphy says the project for the community was created by Altrusa members as a literacy venture to encourage people of all ages to get out and walk while enjoying children's books. The undertaking was funded entirely by the Altrusans after gaining permission and support from the WOW Trail board and the Laconia Parks and Recreation Department.
She said the site was chosen because it is free, open to the public, handicapped accessible and runs for just over 1/2 mile. Without traffic concerns walkers, bicyclists and children running or in carriages could enjoy the story along the path. "Bear Wants More" was chosen for its colorful illustrations and message of cooperation among members of the animal world. The book was written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman, originally published in 2003.
Merrill, who is retired from a career as a maintenance worker, said that he enjoyed walking the trail with his four-year-old grandson, William Vashaw, who was delighted to see the illustrations.
''He told me that he knew the story because they have the book in his Head Start class and he would read it from memory when he saw each page. When he saw that the pages were missing from the fence he asked 'where's the story' and was visibly upset that it wasn't there,'' said Merrill.
Murphy says that Merrill stopped by her family's business, Terry Murphy's Court Street Auto (Citgo), and after looking at some of the damaged illustrations which had been brought to her by the Parks and Recreation Department offered to repair them.
''It's my nature to fix things,'' said Merrill who said that since the illustrations have gone back up his grandson is very happy to see it.
''A lot of people walk the trail and enjoy it,'' said Merrill.
He said that others using the trail are not interested in seeing it maintained and that items recovered along the trail by him have included syringes which he believes were used by people taking drugs.
McCarthy, a semi-retired musician who plays guitar and mandolin, has played with the likes of Tommy Makem and Bonnie Raitt and provides music at places like the Taylor Home and the New London Hospital.
He saw a pile of the illustrations stacked up along the trail near O restaurant in Lakeport and that the person he believes was trying to steal them ran away as he approached.
McCarthy says he and his dog, one of only 475 Begar Picards left in the world, are out on the trail just about every morning and that he has been approached by panhandlers seeking money, which gives him cause for concern about the safety of people using the trail.
''I hope more people will get out and use the trail and make it a safer place where this kind of vandalism won't take place,'' says McCarthy.
Murphy says that two of the original 32 illustrations are still missing and is hoping that they will be recovered and returned. She said that the recovered pages are now grouped more closely together at the Lakeport Square end of the WOW Trail.
Bob McCarthy and his Begar Picard ''Beau'' are frequent walkers along the WOW Trail and have recovered many of the Story Trail pages of ''Bear Wants More'' which were vandalized. He is shown with Deanne Murphy, president of the Laconia Altrusa Club, and Peter Merrill of Lakeport, who has repaired the damaged vinyl covered pages so that they can be again displayed along the trail for young readers. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)
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