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Piasa Bird vandalized; reward fund started

By AP/KWMU

Alton, Ill. – An Alton woman who's upset that a prominent landmark was defaced has started a fund to help police find the culprits.

The Piasa Bird is a mythological beast painted on the bluffs along the Mississippi River.

It was damaged last weekend when vandals threw tar-dipped sticks at the bird, dripped tar on the park's patio and walkway and drove over the sidewalk.

Marlinda Birkner put down $1,000 on Wednesday to offer as reward money and hopes others will add to that amount.

Police say the vandals also dabbed tar on the park's keystone patio and concrete walkway, and drove over the sidewalk. The vandals also damaged light fixtures and the drinking fountain, breaking glass-block windows along the way.

They say the incident occurred between 9 p.m. Saturday and 6:30 a.m. Sunday.

Someone also recently scratched an obscenity into a decorative wall and painted on the park's arrowhead marker that gives the history of the Piasa Bird.

"I think it is disgusting," said Phil Roggio, the city's development and housing chief. "I don't know who would think it was fun to vandalize a city park or demean the history of the area."

The Piasa Bird is said to be based on a long-vanished American Indian rock painting that decorated a river bluff near here.

Over the years, the bird's likeness has appeared in several locations and in various styles, including a metal cutout affixed to a bluff. The latest version a painting about 50 feet wide and two stories tall, with the bottom edge roughly 20 feet above the ground was painted by community members in the mid-1990s.

An effort is under way to get the image repainted.

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