'Coast Guard City USA' letters vandalized

Becky Vargo • Aug 7, 2018 at 11:00 AM

The “Coast Guard City USA” sign on the side of Dewey Hill was installed with colorful LED lighting that was supposed to be choreographed to the music for the Coast Guard Festival fireworks finale Saturday night.

But just days after volunteers installed the 6-foot-tall letters on the dune that faces downtown Grand Haven, vandals took part of it down.

Brad Boyink, who created the lighting program with Ryan Strahorn, said the malicious prank occurred Thursday night when someone tried to rearrange the letters on the hill. But the large letters were attached to rebar and piping to anchor them down securely, making it very difficult to move them.

Instead, the vandals tipped over some of the letters, ripped off the backs of them, and tore off two lighting controllers and four power supplies, Boyink said. They also ripped out every power cord from the power supplies still attached and cut various sections of the lighting wires.

“The damage was so massive that I spent six hours on the hill to repair it all,” Boyink said in a social media post explaining what happened.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel returned to the hill to help raise the letters, while Boyink and Strahorn cobbled together some extra controllers and power supplies — enough to light the letters again.

Just an hour before Saturday night’s show, Boyink said they discovered a problem with their fix and climbed back up the hill. Unfortunately, firefighters didn’t know he was there as they watered down the hill to keep the dry vegetation from catching on fire. Boyink said his computer got drenched and fried, so he wasn’t able to make the light choreography work.

The lopsided lighting on the anchor was not from the vandalism.

“It was a casualty of the repairs,” Boyink explained. 

Boyink said they did the best they could in the time that they had.

Now it’s back to the drawing board to see how they can make things better for next year. Boyink said they also plan to come up with a better way to protect the equipment.

Boyink said that he plans to repair the lights on the anchor this week. The lights are a permanent fixture.

Boyink estimated the damage at about $400, but that didn’t take into account his time, his damaged computer and all the extra volunteer hours to stand up the letters. 

Although they reported it to the police, Boyink said they don’t want officers wasting their resources trying to find the vandals.

“It was vandalism, but it’s water over the bridge,” he said. “We got it going and were moving ahead.”

He did add that the vandals left some equipment behind as well as a signature, “The Boyz,” on the anchor house.

He suggested that anyone who knows any of “The Boyz” to “please kindly give their names to the police.”

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