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Grinches not welcomed! Vandals unscrew, break newly installed Christmas lights at Covered Bridge Park

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com
It doesn’t take someone breaking a business window or setting a fire to a building to become an unwelcomed grinch to a community — it can be a simple act of removing and breaking bulbs from newly installed Christmas lights meant to bring enjoyment and some sense of peace in a time of unrest.

Within 24 hours of Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department employees running new strands of Christmas lights at the Covered Bridge Park, there have already been a number of those bulbs unscrewed and broken by local grinches who have nothing better to do than destroy public property.

For the Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Department, this act of vandalism was like a punch in the gut as these lights are intended to help bring joy to the community and its visitors.

“We do a lot of things through the year and I feel like that we have the best job in the world because we can actually provide necessity of life activities and recreation is different in many different ways,” said Elizabethton Parks and Recreation Director Mike Mains. “Some people read books in the park or walking and biking.

“About two years ago we decided to go in this direction because we had a beautiful showcase there any way in the Covered Bridge and we were thinking on how we could improve on our Christmas activities and events.

“For us we purchased like 10,000 bulbs of lights and the year before that was fewer but we have been increasing what we have been doing through the years.”

Mains went on to say that there was a lot of excitement this year because the Elizabethton City Council had provided some additional funds to allow for the purchase of more lights to put up.

The timing may seem a little early but with the unique year of 2020 the staff felt like the community needed something to brighten their day as they visited the park in the evenings to see the lights burning.

“This year we were really excited because we had more additional money that City Council had gave to us for this fund so we were all ready to go and our staff started early this year so we could have the lights up for the Christmas Tree lighting,” Mains said.

“It was a collaborative effort between our department and Carter County Bank along with Main Street and a few other agencies. Our guys went out yesterday and started to work.

“For them, this is one of the favorite things they love to do in a given year because they know the impact it’s going to have and the happiness it will bring to the families that come out.”

Unfortunately, that excitement quickly turned to disgust as not even a day removed from the installation of the lights, the damage was discovered to a section of the lights.

“We put the lights up and it wasn’t 24 hours later we had 100 bulbs missing and it’s pretty discouraging that we go to the extent of putting up so many lights and for us to we care about this project we care about this event every year.”

It was not the only act of vandalism at the park over the last few days as on Halloween night someone set a fire on the stage area at the Covered Bridge which was handled by the Elizabethton Police Department according to Mains.

Mains had a stern warning to those who participated in the destruction of the lights and for those who might be thinking of doing the same thing again.

“I will tell you this — there are cameras in our park facility — at least five or six of those, and if it happens again there is a very good likelihood of finding out who those individuals are and we will address the matter.”

Hopefully, this will be a one and done thing and these grinches, like the one in the Dr. Seuss book, will grow a heart and discover the true meaning of Christmas and go further and develop an appreciation for their community and its people in the good things that are done to bring encouragement and hope.