>Behind-the-wheel vandals have been wreaking havoc on the park's fragile fields
News Editor
   County park maintenance officials have had it.
   Last Wednesday, an unknown person or persons took an after-hours joyride through Juniper Hills Park, damaging the fragile wintertime-grass and possibly destroying portions of the main water line.
   It's not the first time behind-the-wheel vandals have rampaged through the park, and local law enforcement agents are now looking for the perpetrators who "thrashed" the fields.
   "It's an ongoing thing," said Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy John Barrett. "We've had some guys drive over the grass but never this bad."
   Kevin Canaday, Jefferson County Park Maintenance Technician, spent much of his Thursday surveying and assessing the damage caused by what is believed to be a four-wheel-drive pickup.
   The truck tore through seemingly every corner of the park, leaving behind skid marks and dying grass. The ground has also sunk in areas over the main water line that suggests the pipe may have been crushed.
   Maintenance workers won't know until spring whether the four-inch pipe is broken. They'll return water to the line at that time and also be able to determine if any of the sprinklers have been destroyed.
   "This is the worst damage I've ever seen and I've seen a lot this year," Canaday said.
   If caught, the suspect who drove on the Juniper Hills Park fields will be charged with first-degree trespass and first-degree criminal mischief, Barrett said. That goes for anyone else committing the same acts, Barrett added, and there have been many joyriders cruising through the park this year.
   Several individuals have been caught doing "cookies" in the gravel parking areas, tearing up the surface by spinning their vehicles in circles to the point where the maintenance crew has to reblade the lot.
   Canaday said in most instances he makes the individuals rake the gravel if he catches them in the act. But the increase in incidents is testing his patience.
   "People are tearing up the parking lot and the turf trying to impress their friends but it's not impressing us," Canaday said.
   Tony Anderson, county park maintenance employee, said last week's damage to the grass alone could cost more than $500 not counting labor that could be directed elsewhere. The roots and crowns have been severely damaged, he said.
   "We'll have to fill it in with dirt and probably reseed it," he said.
   County officials are now considering lining the park along Bean Drive and Ashwood Road with a rock buffer to prevent vehicles from driving onto the fields.
   But that's an option they'd rather not take.
   "We're not looking to hammer anybody on this. We just want them to stop," Canaday said. "It's becoming so frequent we're going to have to need some help from the community if we're going to bring it to a stop.
   "Repairing the damage takes away time we could be improving the fields for the ballplayers."
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