When James Hanrahan took his dog for a walk in Reservoir Park two weeks ago, he came across a disheartening sight.

A bridge built in 2008 over a stream on the property had been vandalized, with the facade side railing smashed from the foot base.

"The damage wasn't simply done by pushing," said Mr. Hanrahan, a member of the Friends of the Reservoir. "They had to put some effort into breaking it down."

"It's unfortunate this had to happen," he added, noting vandalism has seemed to lessen recently.

Since Reservoir Park was created in 2006 in the Second Hill section of town, the Friends of the Reservoir have created walking trails around the lake, installed trail signs and nature information signs and installed a kiosk with photos of workers creating the park.

Eagle Scout projects have installed bridges and a boat dock.

Since early 2007, vandals have destroyed signage, damaged bridges, torn apart the plexiglass bulletin board on the kiosk and burned the photos, and inflicted other damage at the park.

"It's disheartening," said Mayor Pat Murphy. "It's very ignorant for people to behave this way. It ruins it for everybody. But what do we do? Lock the park up? We can't have someone there 24/7."

The park is under the purview of the mayor's office.

The 172-acre property was purchased by the town from United Water in 2005 for $1.94 million, with the assistance of the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust, private donors and state and federal funding.

"We're few in number but mighty in spirit," said Sally Talarico, Friends of the Reservoir volunteer coordinator. "We're fortunate that we have engineers and contractors in our group. We've been able to take on a lot of projects."

But for Mrs. Talarico, the ongoing vandalism has also been disheartening.

Days and hours of work put in on projects by volunteers and Boy Scouts have been destroyed time and time again, she said.

"We've had to put informational signs up so high on trees, people can't easily read them," Mrs. Talarico said. "We've had to replace trail signs with blue and red paint swatches on trees along the trails.

"We've had to set posts in cement for closing off unsafe areas and protecting the boat dock from vehicles driving in. They were repeatedly ripped out of the ground."

Garbage has finally stopped being dumped at the park. Mrs. Talarico attributes it to her "being a garbage diver."

"I dug through bags of garbage, found names on receipts and turned the names over to the police," she said.

When police Chief Shawn Boyne came to the force last year, patrols began regularly, occurring at the upper and lower parking lots during each duty shift.

"The chief appointed one of his lieutenants to centralize security with us," said Mr. Hanrahan. "Since that began, there's regular patrolling of the parking lots. It's helped a great deal."

stuz@newstimes.com; 860-355-7322