Wave of park vandalism incidents tarnish Craig amenities, frustrate city staff
Ryan Dennison said it ebbs and flows, but it’s hard to escape entirely the scourge of vandalism.
A short reprieve often gives way to a wave of incidents, the director of parks and recreation for the city of Craig said, and it seems like we’re in the midst of one of the latter now.
“Last year we had some pretty big impacts of vandalism throughout the course of the year,” Dennison said. “Someone took a rock and put it through a slide at Woodbury, there were people driving on our turf, damaging the irrigation. A multitude. Then weeks go by where there’s nothing until a string of them consecutively.”
The latest occurrence, Dennison said, came over this past weekend at Breeze Street Park, where someone completely wrecked the bathroom, tearing a stall right out of the cinderblock wall and emptying the trash can all over the interior.
“These city parks are for the community,” Dennison said. “And this takes away in so many ways from the amenities we have for the public. We have to close that bathroom until we can safely reopen it, plus there’s a cost incurred from that — and staff time not being able to do other projects. It’s not a good thing.”
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Other recent incidents include a fence near the City Park Pool facility being cut, picnic tables at multiple locations being damaged or destroyed, and a vehicle on the basketball courts at Woodbury Park damaging tables and trash cans.
Dennison doesn’t know yet the extent of the cost of the damage to these or other vandalized locations, but said it’s obviously not a positive. There’s no specific budget line for damage in the parks budget, he said.
“It hits our operations budget,” Dennison said. “The thing that stinks is that we have that monetary hit and then maybe these tools we need or this project we had slated we can’t pay for them and they go on the back burner after these (vandalism incidents) happen. We have to immediately take care of the damage.”
The city said they are looking at increasing security and that there are cameras on the Breeze Street Park location in particular that will have their footage reviewed in search of a perpetrator. City manager Peter Brixius said in an email that the city is offering a $1,000 reward for help with identifying the Breeze Street Park vandals stemming from this Saturday incident specifically.
“The city is working hard to develop our recreational resources, and we sure could use some help in preserving and protecting these investments,” Brixius wrote.
Brixius added that enhanced security coverage is being budgeted for 2022. Last year’s total budget for the parks department, Dennison said, was just about $1.8 million.
“Parks and recreation brings a quality of life to a community,” Dennison said. “If you don’t respond to (vandalism) and the parks degrade without money or funding — say we need a few more trash receptacles but don’t have the money because we have to replace the three that were vandalized. It’s a tough course. We’re doing what we can as a city to be proactive.”
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Editor’s note: This story was updated at 6:45 p.m. to include a response from the Bureau of Land Management’s national office.