GRAY — Sometime Thursday night or early Friday morning unidentified vandals drove doughnuts into a hayfield at Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, cutting deep, damaging ruts into the soil.
Michael Graham, curator of the Shaker Village, noticed the damage Friday afternoon as he left the village to do errands.
“My heart sank. It looked like someone drove through the field with a pickup truck,” Graham said Saturday.
The field grows 50 tons of hay used to feed livestock. Graham said it’s an important resource, and while it was tough to guess the total amount of the damage, he anticipated at least several thousand dollars in sod filling and labor costs.
“I cut hay for the Shakers,” he said. “It hit close to home.”
The hayfield destruction was the latest in a string of illegal dumping and vandalism that has occurred on the historic 1,800-acre property over the past year.
An old refrigerator dumped in a field, used for target practice. Shotgun shells littered across the grounds, along with spent firework casings. Earlier this summer, 90-100 tires were dumped on an access road that cuts across the property, landing in vernal pools, ecologically important areas where plants and animals thrive.
Trespassers crossed other fields accessible only by private roads maintained for fire safety and pushed large boulders with what Graham assumes was a tractor.
The problem is ongoing. Graham said that in the time between discovering the ruts Friday afternoon and going out to put up a chain hours later, someone dumped a white porcelain toilet on the side of a nearby access road.
After the vandalism Friday, responding sheriffs told Graham to post the property with no trespassing signs. Graham said the Shakers recently signed conservation easements to help open up the historic land for recreation, including hunting and fishing. One of the stipulations was to remove the no trespassing signs.
“We sold the rights to the property to make it more accessible to the public. We don’t want to keep people off,” Graham said. “Many people respect our property. These people don’t have much respect.”
Graham said the Shakers can’t afford something like this again, and are taking concrete steps to prevent another rash of bad behavior.
“It starts with chains and gates,” he said. “Having more eyes on the property would be beneficial.” Graham mentioned forming a neighborhood watch so concerned neighbors could report any vandalism to the Shakers or to law enforcement.
Graham said the community response has been overwhelming. On Friday, more than 600 people shared a post on Facebook detailing the damage, with many expressing outrage. Community members have expressed willingness to help with the hard work of repairing the damaged fields, saving the Shakers several thousand dollars.
“That level of support chokes me up,” Graham said. “It’s very humbling.”
A hayfield across from Shaker Village, just across Route 26 in New Gloucester , background, has been torn up by vandals recently as seen in this aerial photo taken Friday. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Aerial)
A hayfield across from Shaker Village in New Gloucester, background, has been torn up by vandals recently as seen in this aerial photo taken Friday. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Aerial)