Vandals strip Vashon Island's iconic 'bike-in-a-tree'

VASHON, Wash. -- An island icon that has weathered six decades in the woods has apparently fallen prey to vandals.

Someone has stripped and stolen parts of Vashon Island's iconic 'bike-in-a-tree,' leaving it without a front wheel, a back tire, and more. Local residents began to notice the changes over the past few weeks, but no one reported the vandalism to authorities, a King County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman said Thursday.

The bicycle - off of Vashon Island's main thoroughfare - has grown into the tree after being left there by a young boy in 1954. As the tree grew and swallowed up parts of the bike, it became the basis of local legend and even the inspiration for a children's book.

"It's a bit of history. It sort of fits in with the atmosphere of Vashon Island," said Marita Ogden, a tourist from Tempe, Ariz., who stopped by to photograph the bike on Thursday morning. "The pictures I've seen - there was substantially more bike, so I was surprised there was so little of it left."

"That's too bad," she continued, "because it's a bit of history and sort of an adventure to go find it."

Photos and video from 2013 show a full front wheel and fork intact on the bicycle.

Photo of the Vashon bike taken in the summer of 2013.

Those parts - along with others - appear to have been taken from the local landmark.

"A lot of people look for that bike in the tree, definitely," said Nancy Weed, who has lived on Vashon for decades. "But if something gets popular, people decide they need a piece of it, and so they destroy it."

Weed noted that the restaurant next to the bicycle closed a few weeks ago. A large bike shop on the island - whose owner would often replace missing parts of the bicycle, locals say - also closed this year.

New bike shop owner Tristan Ruegamer read about the vandalism this week and decided to start looking for replacement parts.

"It's an island icon," said Ruegamer, who opened his store, Skunk Works Custom Bicycle Repair, three months ago. "The first thing people want to know when people rent bikes from me is, 'where's the bike in the tree?' That's now not going to be an option."

Ruegamer figures that as word gets out, local residents will begin to donate antique parts to help restore the bicycle.

"Once everybody finds out, they'll be coming in and saying, 'hey, I got a few things. Come look at them,'" he said.

"Whoever did it, they're gonna get found out," Ruegamer added. "That's just the way things work on an island this small.