PORTAGE DES SIOUX, Mo. – The community of Portage Des Sioux is frustrated after the historic “Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine” is vandalized and covered in graffiti for weeks without cleanup efforts in time for the high tourism season.
Just off the banks of the Mississippi River lies the small, peaceful town of Portage Des Sioux. Overlooking it all is the iconic Virgin Mary called “Our Lady of the Rivers Shrine,” the landmark was erected to protect the area from flooding, but there is another threat: vandals.
Two weeks ago, they graffitied the entire area, including the shrine, and it has yet to be removed.
“It’s terrible. Our town is known for that statue, and it kind of puts a black mark on our town,” said Colleen Bextermueller, a Portage Des Sioux resident.
“It’s just not right; I mean, it’s defacing for us a very religious monument,” said Dawn Boschert, a Portage Des Sioux resident.
The landmark was adopted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as a navigational marker. It holds not only a religious and historical meaning but is functional as well.
With Memorial Day and the blessing of the fleets coming up, the symbol has become an eyesore.
“We got a lot of tourists that come through here, especially during boating season,” said Beth Blank, a Portage Des Sioux resident. “When they come through that’s one of the main things that people go down and look at is the shrine.”
Unfortunately, St. Charles County police haven’t found any suspects.
The words “pray for us” on the shrine have never been truer.
“We’ll be able to fix it and clean it up, but however those that did it, they need the prayers,” Bextermueller said.
Some residents suggest security cameras to deter criminals, but the shrine is not run by the city but by a local committee.
FOX 2 reached out to the committee that takes care of the shrine, and we have not yet heard back. However, many people in the town said that they’re waiting for concerns about flooding to subside before they can paint it and clean up the mess.