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Graffiti mars playground

Gold, orange and purple spray paint marred murals depicting cartoon characters at Sherlock Forest Playground in East Grand Forks' Sherlock Park on Tuesday morning.

Gold, orange and purple spray paint marred murals depicting cartoon characters at Sherlock Forest Playground in East Grand Forks' Sherlock Park on Tuesday morning.

A vandal or vandals scrawled word "pipers" on wooden panels, a plastic slide and paintings of cartoon characters under the castlelike structure along Fifth Avenue Northwest in East Grand Forks.

On panels where the word didn't appear, there were roughly drawn depictions of pipes or bongs protruding from different characters' mouths. Eight of the 10 cartoon panels under the structure were damaged.

East Grand Forks police Sgt. Mike Anderson said the vandalism hadn't been reported before Tuesday so it's not clear when it happened.

Still, repairs already were under way Tuesday afternoon. Anderson photographed the damage as evidence earlier in the day.

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Materials won't be a huge cost, Anderson said, but it may take at least two workers one full day to get the images sandblasted out of the wood before they can be repainted. He said he didn't know how long the repairs would take.

There hasn't been a problem with graffiti in East Grand Forks in 10 years, Anderson said. At that time, the graffiti was gang-related, he said.

"We were able to stomp that out very effectively," Anderson said. "We get some stuff every once in a while, but it's never been a rampant kind of deal."

And it's never happened at Sherlock Forest Playground, he said. Anderson said he hasn't heard of any group that calls itself the "pipers." The graffiti found at the park brought to mind a "connotation with smoking marijuana," he said.

Built in April 2003 through the help of dozens of area volunteers, the park is a 14,000- square-foot recreational area complete with picnic shelters and two sets of playground equipment, a few blocks away from the city pool.

The park is filled each summer, Anderson said. Families spend the day there and often, he said, day care providers bring groups of children to the park.

"We haven't had any problems down here, except to boot people out in the early morning hours," he said. "Young people like to hang out here, but we inform them that the parks are closed at 10 p.m. and they get out. We haven't had anyone give us any grief here."

Reach Nadeau at (701) 780-1118 or snadeau@gfherald.com .

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