Richland police are investigating who ripped out purple sage plants from a Purple-Heart-medal-shaped plant bed in town.

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Ernie Crediford led the charge three years ago to build a heart-shaped plant bed at the west end of Wye Park in Richland.

Designed to resemble the Purple Heart medal given to wounded military service members, it has a trim of fine gold rock and an inner section that’s a mix of crushed basalt and purple sage.

Or at least it did.

Someone came along in the last few days and ripped out the purple sage plants — about 16 of them.

So now the earthen heart is broken.

“It was a shock. It kind of set me back a bit,” said Crediford, 67, of Richland, part of the Columbia Basin chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. “It’s a real disappointment right before Memorial Day,” he said.

Crediford reported the apparent vandalism to the Richland Police Department, which is investigating.

The park along Columbia Park Trail is busy, with a path frequented by walkers and bikers, as well as a boat launch. So it’s possible there were witnesses.

Crediford got the idea for the plant bed while he was hiking Badger Mountain on Memorial Day several years ago. He noticed purple sage, which is in bloom around the holiday, and the striking color reminded him of the military medal.

“I grew up in the Vietnam era. It’s affected me in a lot of ways,” Crediford said. “I have a lot of friends who were wounded in the war.”

Crediford said the plan is to replant purple sage in the 15-by-15-foot heart, though that will have to wait until fall for the climate to be right. The native-plant group also plans to put in a marker explaining the plant bed’s meaning.