CHESTER, W.Va. - In what has become a perennial problem, the Dr. David S. Pugh Overlook in Chester has once again been damaged by an act of vandalism.
City officials discovered the vandalism on Friday and reported it to the Chester police, who are investigating. "We have it on video. We're going to review the tape and see what we find," Chief Ken Thorn said.
The damage, while not extensive, is noticeable upon first approaching the overlook from First Street. Ten bricks that used to sit atop the right front wall now lay strewn about the base of the wall. Five bricks are missing from the left side, as well as one brick pillar.
Second Ward City Councilman John Woodruff, who checks on the Overlook regularly, said the city will make repairs once it finds a contractor. He said he is not sure of the damage estimate.
Woodruff said it's possible the vandals were not local. "Whoever did it didn't know the camera was there. They didn't have any idea they were being filmed," he said. "We should have good pictures of them, front and back."
Chester City Council had the camera installed late last year as an extra security measure following reports of vandalism in July. That instance involved the removal of decorative stones around the bronze plaque memorializing Pugh, a beloved Chester physician who died on Memorial Day 2001.
Council discussed the issue in the months following, ultimately deciding on two security measures: a video surveillance camera and brighter lighting. The new light, which has yet to be installed, would be 10 times brighter than the current one.
Vandalism has been a problem at the Overlook ever since it was renovated in 2010. Previously made of wooden decking and steel railings from the original Chester Bridge, the Overlook was rebuilt with masonry and blacktop with funding from private and public sources.
Chester resident Sue Badgley, coordinator of the renovation project, said the vandalism began soon after the project was completed.
"The first thing that happened was, we had chains on the pillars, and there was vandalism done with the chains, so we took the chains down," she said.
Badgley said vandals also have damaged the flower bed and memorial marker. "There's kids all the time doing stuff down there," she said.
Woodruff said he doesn't think any more security measures, other than the lighting, are feasible.
The vandalism has been particularly upsetting to the Pugh family. "My dad would turn over in his grave if he knew what was going on down there," said Pugh's son Richard, of Chester. "It's a disgrace. An absolute disgrace."
Pugh, who lives near the Overlook, said he didn't notice any suspicious activity recently. "I see a lot going on up there in the summer months. It's terrible," he said.
Pugh said brighter lights and more police patrols might help with the vandalism problem. "I'm kind of disappointed in what's going on up there," he said. "They put all this money into it, and people don't have enough respect for a peaceful, quiet place. These young kids these days - they don't care."
The First Street memorial sits at the base of the West Virginia side of the old Chester Bridge, which was closed to traffic in 1969. The Jennings Randolph Bridge replaced it farther east in 1977.