SALT LAKE CITY — James Tomesek has walked through the International Peace Gardens many times before. While he was walking through the gardens Wednesday, the state of some of the pieces confused him.
“Walking around, tragically some of the benches are missing their tops or the bases are completely kicked out, and that's not normal," he said. "I actually thought it was from storms or something.”
On Monday morning, the supervisor of the Gardens noticed damage on several statues and pieces, including the Harp from Wales and the Mermaid from Denmark. The Salt Lake City Public Lands Department realized someone was trying to steal them.
“The indicators are very obvious, in that there are saw marks from a metal cutting tool on, specifically the harp piece for the Wales country," said Aaron Benzon, Public Lands Operation Manager. "There are obvious pry marks from a crowbar trying to lift off some of the other pieces that were mounted, and then lastly, even what appeared to be sledgehammer blows trying to disconnect them from the mounting piece.”
Public lands decided to remove six pieces from the gardens out of respect for the artists.
“It's really, really sad and disheartening to see that this happens," said Luke Allen, Public Lands Community Outreach Manager. "We know the community loves these pieces of art, and we know that they'll be devastated to hear this.”
The harp and the mermaid won't be gone from the Gardens forever; while artists work on repairs, the Public Lands Department is recruiting park rangers, through the city's new program, to patrol the Gardens and trying to figure out a more secure way to mount the pieces.
“We hope that we can get the artwork back in place as soon as possible," said Allen.
Benzon thinks he knows why thieves went after these works of art.
“Primarily, these pieces are made from brass," he said. "Which has a pretty high salvage value when people are looking to recycle them for money.”
Sadly, theft isn’t new to the Peace Gardens.
"This is a more wide-scale attempt than I think we've seen before," said Benzon. "Typically, it's been a piece, like one, one or two things here and there over time. This was multiple pieces at a single moment in time.”
Officials are asking anyone who might have information on the theft to reach out to the Salt Lake City Police Department.