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Downed trees vandalized in Warren

Spray-painted messages mirror frustrations from groups over decision

Correspondent photo / Nathanael Hawthorne Representatives from various community groups and concerned citizens gather to discuss vandalism to felled trees behind the Women’s Park in Warren on Saturday afternoon. About a dozen historical organizations gathered Friday to express their disapproval that about 20 trees — some healthy — had been cut down to make way for a bocce court in anticipation of moving the Italian-American Heritage Festival to Perkins Park.

WARREN — The saga of the downed trees behind the Women’s Park between the Kinsman House and the Perkins House continued Saturday as they were vandalized late Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The trees, many of which were healthy, were cut down Dec. 22 to make room for a bocce court for the Italian-American Heritage Festival, which is being moved from Courthouse Square to Perkins Park.

The cutting of the trees sparked outrage among some of Warren’s groups and associations dedicated to preservation of historic and significant areas in the city.

The vandalization read “Corruption,” “Murder,” “Thanks (expletive)” and “Why Doug?,” an apparent reference to Mayor Doug Franklin.

There has been a push for several years to move the festival to the park to alleviate wear and tear on the Square, where food trucks and vendors drive over the slate and onto the grass, according to outgoing Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa, who also is on the Italian-American Heritage Festival committee.

Cantalamessa Thursday apologized for not consulting the organizations and “meant no disrespect,” but Courthouse Square is an historic area, too, and with the city owning both properties, a decision had to be made.

“We had to take a look and say, ‘Where can we accommodate the two largest attractions to the festival?’ There is nowhere for it down by the Amp because it floods down there. So we took a look at the higher ground. We did have to remove some trees, but about half of them were already dead,” Cantalamessa said.

Members of the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association, the Upton Association, the Warren Heritage Center (housed at the Kinsman House), the First Presbyterian Church, the Trumbull County Historical Society, Friends of the Greenhouse Consortium and Sutliff Museum, as well as a handful of concerned citizens and several past and present Warren government officials, Friday inspected tree stumps and shared concerns about the potential destruction of the historically significant and environmentally functional topography of the land.

Jim Valesky with the Warren Heritage Center said he was at the location earlier Saturday and, upon leaving, received a text message saying the trees were vandalized. When he returned, he sent Franklin pictures of the graffiti. Valesky rolled over the logs depicting the obscenities so children would not see the foul language.

“It’s counter productive. It’s not the way we wanted to go,” Valesky said. “This has gone too far.”

Valesky also said the organizations and the mayor are in the planning stages of a conversation that will be held regarding the installation of the bocce court among other things. Kyle Phillips of the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association said a conversation at least will be had, but it should have happened in the first place.

Other concerned citizens and representatives of the Historic Perkins Homestead Neighborhood Association were at the scene to observe the vandalization. Phillips said there is a more productive way to go about this.

“I don’t agree with unsolicited and unneeded graffiti,” Phillips said. “It is unnecessary, but I agree with the sentiment. There is a larger feeling amongst the community, and there is more to be said about the graffiti.”

Cantalamessa and Franklin did not return messages for comment.

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