SPOKANE, Wash. — Hundreds of Centennial Trail medallions, including some that were left as memorials, have been stolen and damaged over the past few weeks, according to the Spokane Police Department.
SPD and Friends of the Centennial Trail are investigating the theft and damage to the brass medallions along the trail.
Thousands of individuals, families and organizations purchased bronze medallions in the 1980s and 1990s to fundraise for the building of the Spokane River Centennial Trail.
There are more than 3,600 of them along the trail.
"I came down here Sunday to polish it, which we do every year, and I couldn't find it,” said Ed Stretch.
It was a moment of shock for Stretch when he realized someone stole a precious medallion he bought for his father 30 years ago.
However, his wasn't the only one missing, as more than 300 were stolen from the Centennial Trail.
"Someone ground off the logo the inscription and the number on the medallion and it's completely unrecognizable,” said Loreen McFaul of Friends of the Centennial Trail.
McFaul knows this because the thieves tried to sell them at local recycling businesses. One of the businesses knew the items were stolen, while the others unknowingly accepted them and paid the thief about $90 for the brass.
Some were returned but more than a hundred are still missing. Luckily, at both locations, the businesses have good descriptions of the person responsible and their license plate number.
"It's Spokane's heart and soul permanently displayed here and they all represent different lives and different memories,” McFaul said.
The trail is used by about 2.5 million people a year.
People like Stretch bought them for loved ones. He dedicated his to his father Pat.
"It hurts, it hurts all of us bad,” Stretch said.
The trial is considered a state park and officials were planning a 30th celebration by making improvements, but now those plans may be on hold.
"Instead, now we have to do a capital campaign to repair a capital campaign that was in place 30 years ago,” Mc Faul said.
This is not the first time the medallions went missing. In 2005, thieves ripped 40 of them out of the ground, but this time, the theft hurts even more.
"This is different this is in your face stealing,” McFaul explained.
Each circle medallion has a unique story. They represent lives, memories, and events. It's why walking the trail just won't feel the same for Stretch.
"This was just a big addition. Somebody would have the audacity to destroy it. Why? It's like robbing a graveyard,” he said.
Friends of the Centennial Trail is assessing the damage and looking for ideas on how to preserve the remaining medallions.
To learn more about the medallions or to locate the name or number along the trail you can visit Friends of the Centennial Trail’s website. In the coming weeks, they will accept suggestions of how to move forward to make sure this doesn’t happen again.