An enchanting fairy trail loved by York families is being blighted by an increase in drug use, vandalism and arson.
And now the person who leads on the project is appealing for more support to deal with the problems.
The Foss Fairy Trail in Heworth developed during the first lockdown. It features miniature wooden fairy houses, fairy shops, and even a fairy pub and a post office. The trail charms children and grown-ups alike.
During the past two weeks there has been substantial damage to the trail. A large number of the houses have been trashed and thrown in the river – an act described as ‘sickening’ by police.
And three stolen motor scooters have dumped and set alight in the area.
The amount of needles and other drugs paraphernalia discarded by people who use cocaine and heroin has also increased significantly in the past few weeks, say the fairy trail team. Drug dealing has also been observed.
Tracy, the project lead, who works full time, generally spends 30 hours a week managing the project and ensuring the trails progression. The damage has meant time has had to be spent repairing trail rather than working on its development.
A request for CCTV was put to York council to assist the police to help identify individuals participating in any anti-social behaviour. But Tracy said this has been rejected despite the support of the MP.
Children use the area
Tracy said she finds the situation saddening and frustrating. She’s calling for the police and other agencies to do more to help.
Tracy has spoken to some of the drug users. “It doesn’t make me angry. I just find it very sad,” she told YorkMix.
“I have asked them ‘if you’re using, can you just make sure you take needles away with you please, there are a lot of kids coming down here’.
“Any moment a family could come around the corner. It’s not exactly a quiet space to hide away. It appears there is nowhere for them to get much help.
“Obviously this is a concern in any area but more so down the Fairy Trail as families and very young children use the area, as do many dog walkers.”
Recently a tent appeared on the trail. Tracy says people have been spending the night in dens built for children to enjoy and leaving piles of bedding and rubbish. “All I can presume is that these are homeless people, another sad situation.”
“Everyone’s entitled to use the area,” Tracy said. But she has this simple appeal: “Take your litter away, behave responsibly, respect the area to allow everyone to enjoy it.”
Behaviour condemned by police
The trail has secured some funding from North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner to be used to help keep the area a safer public space for everyone.
Also a recent successful National Lottery grant obtained by the Fairy Trail will enable Sustrans, who look after the cycle track, “to develop a more formal route down from the cycle path to the riverwalk”.
Help is needed to stop the rise in anti-social behaviour before it escalates further, Tracy said.
“And that is what we are trying to do, it’s so sad that is being blighted by a small minority.”
A North Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “This type of behaviour is sickening and those responsible should be highly ashamed of the damage and upset they have caused.
“The Neighbourhood Policing Team will continue to carry out patrols in the area while enquiries are ongoing.”
They said witnesses or anyone with information should contact the Force Control Room on 101, or pass details to Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111 quoting reference NYP-31052022-0068.