SEVENTY sapling oak trees, planted in a Bangor park to mark the 200th anniversary of the RNLI, have been ripped out.

The planting of 200 commemorative trees in Castle Park only took place at the end of February but on Thursday night 70 were ripped out by vandals and strewn around footpaths and on the grass.

The vandalism attack took place just days before widespread celebrations to mark the RNLI bicentenary at which local volunteers attended events in Belfast and London.

The discovery of the vandalism was made early on Friday morning by a local dog walker, who immediately reported it to Ards and North Down Council. Council officials have since replanted 30 of saplings but 40 were deemed to be beyond saving and will have to be replaced.

The man who discovered the vandalism, Bangor pensioner, John McSorley, said he had seen the newly planted trees several weeks ago and thought  ‘brilliant, adding more trees to the area’.

“There were two or three of them over the path in the park, but then I looked across and saw the saplings were randomly pulled out and laying in bits and pieces everywhere,” he said.

“I walked around the block, and I could see more had been ripped out.”

Angered at the destruction, the local dog walker swiftly reported this to the council, who arranged for the trees to be replanted within hours of the discovery. 

Green Party councillor, Barry McKee said he was disappointed to learn of themalicious damage’ that was  caused to the saplings in Castle Park.

“Volunteers, community groups, clubs and council officers have put a lot of effort into planting these young trees and for someone to remove them is disheartening. 

“Increasing tree cover in Ards and North Down is a great way for us to get people involved in contributing to a greener cleaner Borough.

“I hope that volunteers will not be discouraged by the mindless act of individuals and that more can be planted soon to replace what has been lost,” said the Bangor West councillor.

A council spokesman stated that there is no current evidence to suggest who pulled the saplings out of the ground.

“As soon as the damage was reported, the team responded, and the trees were replanted. It would appear that the trees were pulled out of the ground. 

“There is no evidence as to who did this or at what time although as it was discovered by a dog walker at 7.30am the next morning, it would be the assumption that it happened the evening before. 

 “Seventy trees were pulled out from the ground and unfortunately 40 of those trees were snapped leaving them unable to be replanted. The remaining 30 were replanted. The council will be replacing the 40 snapped trees before the end of this tree planting season,” the spokesman stated.