LEWISTON — The discovery of a homeless camp in the woods north of Riverside Cemetery — where vandals last week tipped over about 150 gravestones — has led police and cemetery workers to clean up debris and post "No Trespassing" signs.
"We don't believe the campsite had anything to do with the vandalism," police Sgt. Marc Robitaille said Thursday as he hiked along the worn trail that runs parallel to the Androscoggin River.
However, in the wake of the recent damage, police and the cemetery Board of Directors want to discourage through-traffic across the cemetery. They also worry about campfires and people drinking alcohol in the area.
"We obviously want to discourage criminal behavior," Robitaille said.
People are still working to clean up last week's damage to the Summer Street cemetery.
A crew of volunteers is scheduled to help reposition the granite bases on some of the broken stones on Saturday, groundskeeper Kevin Ouellette said.
Next Monday or Tuesday, a vault crane is scheduled to lift some of the massive stones into their spots.
"We're going to do this in phases," Ouellette said. "We hope to be finished in two or three weeks."
Police and Riverside leaders had been meeting about the campsites even before the vandals struck. The wooded, cemetery-owned property has been a traditional site for carousing kids, but it has gotten worse, Robitaille said.
This week, police discovered sleeping bags, shattered beer bottles, a suitcase, tarps and the charred residue of campfires on a wooded bluff that overlooks the river.
They hauled away the garbage. And while police watched, Ouellette erected the signs, meant to discourage illegal behavior. They do not apply to folks who use the trails in the daytime for hiking or running, Robitaille said.