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April 9, 2013

'Digital Dogtown' in ruins

Nearly all of Eagle Scout's 'Digital Dogtown' hit by vandals

A Gloucester Eagle Scout bent down Monday to pick up a splintered wood post that lay next to Dogtown’s welcome sign, the remnants of a project that after 250 hours of volunteer work had acted as the scout’s major community service and leadership work and Dogtown’s first-ever system of digitally connected trail markers.

City and state leaders recognized 17-year-old Gloucester High junior Alan Davis at a Court of Honor Ceremony on Sunday, and Davis had hoped to follow up the special ceremony by slicing a red ribbon at the foot of his Dogtown design. But, when he and family members realized vandals had apparently hacked apart the project, destroying almost all of the 19 marking posts, which featured 12 individual sites, Davis realized there was little left for which to cut the ribbon.

”It’s depressing; it makes me angry,” Davis said. “It’s like I almost expected one to be vandalized, but not all of them. It just makes me want to fix it more.”

Around Easter, family friends had hiked through Dogtown and told the Davises how they had enjoyed the markers, each of which provides a map that guides you to the next interesting site and the nearest exit along with a QR code that, when scanned by a smartphone, connects hikers to a website with thoughtfully researched historical information, additional maps, fun facts and a chronicle of the area’s history.

”People are out in the woods, and they can get the information right there. It’s all information available at the library ... but it becomes an interactive experience,” said Alan’s father, Roger Davis, a teacher at O’Maley Middle School.

But two weeks later, the Davis family trekked out to survey anticipated weather damage to the signs and found the vandalism, some signs burnt, others covered in graffiti, some hacked apart, leaving wood chip sprinklings, and still others just pulled entirely out of the ground and missing.

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