MISSOULA – It has only been around for a couple of days, but EmpowerMT is already dealing with vandalism on one of its newest projects.
On Sunday, EmpowerMT installed the state’s first rainbow crosswalk near the Missoula Art Museum to show support for the LGBTQ Community. Now, black tire marks streak across it.
No taxpayer money was used to install the sidewalk and none is being allocated for future maintenance costs.
“We did not want any of the burden to fall on our taxpayers. We paid for all of, well, not EmpowerMT but our private donors and organizations covered all of the costs,” said EmpowerMT Youth Programs Director Claire Michelson.
Safety to the public was also strongly considered during the project.
“The people who helped us over at the city took safety very seriously,” Michelson said. “That was definitely their first priority was making sure that it was going to be safe and it was going to be in compliance with all the regulations.”
It was a long and thought-out process which showed EmpowerMT youth leaders the ropes of local government and provided some valuable experience going forward.
“That was one of the most exciting parts for me was to watch our youth meet with John Engen and meet with these people from the city and have a positive experience. Doing that was so special.”
After all that hard work, repairs are already needed for a crosswalk that has only been completed for four days.
“I think this is a good reminder for people that we still are experiencing a lot of hate.”
The outpouring of community assistance might also show some LGBTQ members that they do have support from people in the Garden City.
“It’s easy to focus on the negative and the really hateful comments and acts of vandalism, but I think that we all have to keep in mind so we can keep moving forward together, that there is a lot of positive support and the more that we can focus on that the more that we can keep going.”
EmpowerMT still isn’t exactly sure how the crosswalk is going to be fixed, but they said that the city might be able to clean it for them. They are already using power washers in the area on a different project and might be able to use them to clean the tire marks off.
Reporting by Connor McCauley for MTN News