Sheila Leach has an unexpected plan for the graffiti paint scribbled across Park County Right To Life’s billboard on the Belfry Highway.
“My thought is to leave it for awhile,” the chapter vice president said. “I want people to see what the message is. See what has been done to it. Hopefully it will make people angry.
“I just want people to see it.”
The anti-abortion billboard shows a smiling baby with a “Save the Babies” headline running across the top. Across the baby’s face and a ProLife Across America logo, “F..k the babies,” was written in lime green spray paint, along with a couple of smiley faces drawn on – one with devil horns.
“It’s very vulgar,” said Leach.
She saw the act as another example of the divisive nature of our current culture.
“This country is becoming more and more polarized,” she said. “We each should be able to express our different opinions. That’s what cancel culture is all a part of. Some people’s free speech gets more airing than other free speech.”
During the election cycle last fall, local supporters from both sides of the political aisle reported having their candidates’ lawn signs defaced and/or stolen.
Leach and Carol Armstrong, another Right to Life member, said they would have much preferred, and taken more seriously, an oppositional pro-choice billboard, rather than have their own property being defaced.
“If you don’t like the message, do your own billboard,” Armstrong said.
The vinyl that was vandalized had been up for about two years, Armstrong said. Right to Life has been using the billboard for about 12-15 years and Paul Lanchbury, whose property the billboard sits on, said the billboard has been there for his entire 59 year life.
Neither Leach nor Lanchbury said they have ever seen vandalism take place there before.
Right to Life gets to use the billboard for free. On the north facing side of the board is a paid advertisement for a local quilt shop.
“I’m pro-life, from conception to natural death,” Lanchbury said of billboard message. “It’s for a good cause.”
Right to Life’s only expense on the billboard comes from buying the vinyl, which Leach said runs at least around $350.
“Still, that’s a lot for a small, nonprofit organization,” Leach said.
The billboard vandalism was first reported to the Park County Sheriff’s Office on the evening of July 22. Lanchbury said a deputy came out and took photos of the graffiti, but he hasn’t heard anything directly from law enforcement.
Armstrong said unless the culprits came armed with flashlights, the crime would have had occurred in the early evening or morning.
It is unknown who is responsible for the act and how exactly they did it. Although the vandalism appears sloppy and rushed, a certain amount of work and planning had to have gone into the effort. A barbed wire fence separates the base of the roughly 15-foot-high billboard from the highway shoulder. To reach the upper reaches of the billboard, the culprits would have had to have brought a ladder and/or possibly a truck to do the job, and would have had to trespass on to Lanchbury’s private property to reach the west side of the sign.
“They had to have planned that,” Lanchbury said, adding he suspects it was someone who lives in town that drives past the billboard often.
At the crime scene, recent tire tracks can be seen leading towards the highway side of the billboard and away. An empty soda can sat nearby on the ground and a pole alerting to underground wiring appears to have been run over.
“That’s terrible what they wrote up there,” Lanchbury said.