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Park vandals increase budget drain
Kitsap County spent $75,000 on park vandalism repairs in 2008, but that figure is certain to rise drastically this year.
On Monday night, the county commissioners allocated $68,000 to repair vandalized restrooms at Island Lake in Poulsbo.
“Park vandalism is on the rise,” Parks and Recreation Director Chip Faver said. “These issues are becoming more problematic, and it gets worse every year.”
The facility, a free standing building that is separate from the community center, has been vandalized steadily, beginning in February 2007.
The latest incident occurred at night when the park was empty, and the perpetrators pried open locked doors and used explosives to destroy porcelain fixtures.
Neither the Parks Department nor the sheriff have any clues to the identity of the vandals.
And since there is no budget for monitoring or stakeouts, any information gathered must come from the neighbors.
This action provides a further drain on the county’s budget, which seems to shrink each day.
Faver said that past budget cuts, when park rangers were taken off the job, are directly responsible for the rise in vandalism.
Parks, if they are patrolled at all, are monitored by volunteers who are far less effective and provide no deterrent.
Park rangers, after all, wear uniforms and often carry sidearms.
Faver said the impulse to vandalize “is as old as sin itself.
“People are frustrated, and they tend to act out,” he said. “And the tendency is for them to go off and act out by themselves in a place where they are not likely to get caught. They also want a place where people can tell they have been there. Unfortunately, public parks become an obvious target.”
Faver has proposed a camera system to monitor trouble spots, but concedes there is no possibility of implementing thorough coverage.
He also advocates a more explicit signage system that will “give the law some teeth, so if we ever catch someone we will be better able to prosecute.
Faver explained, “Sometimes all you need is the appearance of security in order to dissuade bad behavior.”
The contract to fix the Island Lake facility pays $68,570 to Lydel Construction in Poulsbo and involves replacing toilets, sinks, doors and the roof. Additionally, a photo cell component will automatically close and lock the bathrooms at dusk, to presumably prevent further acts of vandalism.
It will continue, Faver said, as long as the economy continues to slide and people have too much time on their hands.
“As the public becomes more aware that parks are their personal treasures, maybe they will take a bigger role in their protection,” he said.
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Meanwhile, the Parks Department is fighting on another front, to preserve $500,000 in grant money it had allocated for phase one of the South Kitsap Regional Park. The park was in line to receive these funds and was fourth on a list of 74 on a list of important projects, according to Parks Project Coordinator Martha Droge.
These grant funds, which are administered by the state, are separate from the $1.7 million that was left to the park from a private party.
Droge said that even if the funding is delayed the park will eventually get the money.
She added that the shortfall would not slow down park construction, which is scheduled to begin this year.