Vandalism closes skate park indefinitely
Canal Winchester's skate park was once again the target of vandals, causing the park to close until repairs can be made.
The nearly $95,000 park, built in 2010 for use by skateboarders, inline skaters and bicyclists, has had a rash of vandalism this year including damage and destruction of fencing, signs, a portable toilet and multiple cases of graffiti.
"We're constantly dealing with vandalism at the skate park, it seems," Public Works Director Matt Peoples said. "This year, we've had damage to the rules signs and our thank-you signs for the builders that helped make this happen. So far this year, I'd say the maintenance due to the damages is a couple thousand dollars."
According to Peoples, city officials believe most of the vandalism is being done by non-resident users of the park. He said Canal Winchester officials are aware of some people who have been banned from other cities' parks and are concerned they've made their way to Canal Winchester now. A graffiti incident earlier this year resulted in the conviction of a man, not a Canal Winchester resident, who was forced to pay restitution for the damage, Peoples said.
"When we went up to the park to put the tarp over it, there were a few kids there, maybe 10 or 12 years old, and they were really bummed about it closing," he said. "They couldn't imagine why anyone would do this, either.
"Those are the kids being hurt by this the most, because they can't just drive to some other community's park," he added.
Mayor Michael Ebert said the most recent vandalism would likely cost several hundred dollars to repair. Most of that cost is for a city crew's time, which is partly why the park will remain closed indefinitely, he said.
"Due to the other more pressing issues we're dealing with related to all of the recent storms, we chose to cover the vulgar language with tarps and close the park until we have time to send our workers in for cleanup," Ebert said. "It took our crew several days to remove the paint last time."
Peoples said the issue with graffiti removal at the park is that using a traditional sandblaster would ruin the pavement, causing even greater damage and closing the park for longer periods, if not for good.
"I just can't understand it. There were complaints about (users) being thirsty, so we added a water fountain. Then there were issues with not having a bathroom, so we added a port-a-let up there," Peoples said. "We've invested a lot of money to give kids a place to go. The first day the port-a-let was out there, someone jumped on top of it and crushed the roof."
Ebert has asked that anyone with information about who caused the most recent damage contact the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office non-emergency number at 614-837-7478.
"We hope that if anyone knows who did this, or if anyone sees something like this happening in the future, they call," Ebert said.