A Piney Flats bicyclist discovered the image spray-painted Tuesday near the trail’s Milligan Depot, and immediately reported the vandalism.
“I took these pictures and rode my bike directly to the Johnson City Police Department,” said Ralph Johnston, who frequently takes his bike out to the trail.
“I showed them the pictures and informed them where they were taken,” he said. “They were aghast at the pictures, but I was informed the location was not in their jurisdiction.”
The depot is near the Johnson City-Elizabethton line. The location is in Elizabethton’s jurisdiction, but local police could not be reached for comment.
This isn’t the first time vandalism has happened on the trail, but it is the first time a swastika has been reported. In 2014, nearly two pounds of roofing nails were discovered at the Tweetsie Trail trailhead parking lot on Alabama Street in Johnson City.
Despite those incidents, officials say this type of thing is rare.
But as infrequent as it is, it’s still disheartening for Tweetsie Trail lovers.
Dan Schumaier, chairman of the Tweetsie Trail Task Force, considered this an unpleasant surprise and said instances like this have not happened much along the trail.
“There are jerks everywhere who do this sort of thing,” Schumaier said. “But we’ve usually had very little problems at the trail.”
Though reported on Tuesday, it’s unclear when the swastika was painted. Phil Pindzola, Johnson City director of public works, said the graffito has since been cleaned up.
“I haven’t noticed a lot of things like this happen, though this is one of the bigger incidents that have happened at the trail,” Pindzola said.
Pindzola went on to say he was proud of the community that works to help police the area and keep a lookout for things such as the recent vandalism. He said it is people like Johnston who help maintain the trail.
“We’ve got a lot of people involved in keeping the trail clean,” Pindzola said.
Graffiti has been a subject of concern in Johnson City in recent years.
In 2015, racist vandalism and graffiti were found at Founders Park and the old General Mills building on West Walnut Street. The mill’s graffiti troubles continued until redevelopment began earlier this year.
Last October, Science Hill High School was vandalized with obscene graffiti, which some students had reported also included racial epithets.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the increase in hate incidents and displays of hostility toward marginalized groups in general have been part of a larger national trend.
At Texas A&M, white supremacist organizations recently shocked students after posting fliers promoting blatant racism.