OAKHURST – Anne Driscoll got quite a shock early Monday morning, June 23. Driving through Oakhurst to exercise class, the Branches Books & Gifts owner passed Junction Center where her business is located, at the intersection of Highway 41 and Road 426.
Looking up at the tower that holds the signs advertising each tenant by name, Driscoll could see the underlying area was a mess of bottles, trash and broken signs. Serious damage had been puposefully done, overnight.
“I drove up this morning and our signs on the tower were hanging by a thread or all over the ground,” said Driscoll.
She added that beer bottles and other detritus spilled out of the gazebo-like tower, where there had evidently been some partying going on. Once the trash was picked up by the maintenance crew at Junction Center, all that remained were thousands of dollars in vandalism to the property, and a strong sense of dismay.
“It made me so sick to my stomach,” reported Driscoll, who is an active member of the community in both her work and family life. She is involved with civic activities, volunteers frequently, and donates time and energy to local schools and businesses. She is frustrated with members of the community who don’t show basic respect for the property.
“I just don’t understand. I’m totally disgusted.”
Neighboring businesses’ signs were affected along with Branches’, including Solstice Gallery, Plants & Gifts, and Solstice Salon. Owners of those two businesses, Amy and Clayton Duke, arrived on the scene early Monday morning and immediately went to work removing the damaged, dangling signs, so no one would be hurt, and hoping to salvage some of the custom wooden work.
“Clay took down the signs that were in danger of falling and becoming more damaged, and brought me mine. One made it, one didn’t. Both of theirs are down,” Driscoll added, referring to the Dukes.
The sheriff’s office was called, and a report was taken. Driscoll said she believes the vandalism may have taken place Sunday night into Monday morning. Deputies gave her a case number and promised to keep an eye on the center during patrol. The total cost of the vandalism could add up to thousands of dollars as the signs are assessed for repair or replacement, and labor is factored in for re-installation.
A carved wooden bear on the property was cracked and destroyed in a prior incident at the center.
This Monday-morning discovery comes on the heels of an Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce annnouncement regarding a special Town Hall Meeting being called to discuss reported vandalism, break-ins, and other crimes in the area.
The Town Hall Meeting on “crime in the mountains, safety and awareness,” is set for Tuesday, July 8, at the Oakhurst Community Center, from 6 – 8 p.m., according to the Chamber.