Tuesday morning was perfect for Bill Bevis to make ice for Pineview Park's popular skating rink – cold and clear. Instead, he found that images of male genitalia had been spray-painted on the surface.
Bevis and other volunteers have kept the rink pristine for 40 years, and it has become a beloved tradition for Missoulians. About 30 to 50 people skate on the rink every day during the winter, he said. Volunteers spend 10 hours a week resurfacing the rink, and 100 hours before every season getting it ready.
During an approximately two-hour window Monday night, vandals broke into the rink's shed – you have to enter a code to get in – stealing the key and disassembling the ignition housing on a tractor used to maintain the ice. Later Tuesday morning, Bevis spotted fresh truck tire tracks on the field between the rink and Rattlesnake Elementary School. And Tuesday afternoon, a city parks employee told Bevis that he had put out a fire in the portable toilet about 4:30 p.m. Monday.
That's about the same time Bevis swept the rink. Neighbor and longtime volunteer Paul Sharkey went to the rink about 7 p.m. Monday – at which point the vandalism had already occurred.
"It doesn't look like anything, but when the sun hits dark spots, those melt into the shape," Bevis said of the graffiti.
He was finally able to get the tractor running after a city employee stopped by and helped reattach the ignition housing.
But the rink was off-limits Tuesday as Bevis tried to erase the graffiti and get the word out to neighbors – hoping somebody saw something.
Vandalism has been rare, he said.
"It's really bad for the neighborhood to have vandalism at this rink," he said.
"But it's good for kids to know that people are watching."
Bevis said if all went well Tuesday, he would likely reopen the rink on Wednesday.
"I want some kid to feel really bad," Bevis said, somewhat tongue in cheek. "I did some bad things, and it was a good lesson for me."
Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call Bevis at 728-2774 or the Missoula Police Department at 552-6300.